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> Shirley Collins > Songs > The Coventry Carol
> Maddy Prior > Songs > Lully, Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child

The Coventry Carol / Lullay, Lullay

[ Roud 19028 ; Ballad Index OBC022 ; Old Songs CoventryCarol ; trad.]

Pupils from Wisbech Grammar School sang the Coventry Carol in the Live Christmas Day 1957 Broadcast on BBC Radio organised by Alan Lomax. This was published in 2000 on the Alan Lomax Collection CD Sing Christmas and the Turn of the Year.

Joan Baez sang the Coventry Carol on 1966 on her album Noël. This track was also included in 2006 on the Free Reed 4 CD anthology celebrating folk music and tradition of Christmas and the turning of the year, Midwinter.

In 1969, The Young Tradition split up while recording their album of Christmas songs with Shirley and Dolly Collins, The Holly Bears the Crown; and it was only in 1995 that the album was finally released. One of the carols on this album is The Coventry Carol. Shirley Collins and Heather Wood noted:

From one of the Coventry Mystery or Miracle plays, in the Pageant of the Shearmen and Taylors. It is known that in 1484 Richard III attended a performance of the Pageant and would have heard this carol.

John Roberts and Tony Barrand sang the Coventry Carol in 1977 on their album Nowell Sing We Clear. This track was also included in 1989 on the CD The Best of Nowell Sing We Clear 1975-1986.

Landini Consort sang Lully, Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child in 1978 on their Hill & Dale album Nowell, Nowell.

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band sang Lully, Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child in 1986 on their Saydisc album A Tapestry of Carols, and in 1998 on their Park Records CD Carols at Christmas.

The Voice Squad sang The Coventry Carol on their 1992 album Holly Wood. Frank Harte noted:

This song originally formed part of a 16th century Coventry nativity play and was given to The Voice Squad by our late friend Seamus O'Rachallaigh.

Jacqui Dankworth sang Lully Thou Little Tiny Child in 1995 on Incantation & Friends' album Songs for the Season.

Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing sang the Coventry Carol in 1997 on their WildGoose CD Call & Cry. They noted:

From the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors’ Company, part of the Coventry Mystery Plays which date back to the mid-15th century. In the play, the women of Bethlehem sing this lullaby to their children, for fear their crying will attract the attention of Herod’s soldiers. The children are slaughtered nonetheless.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang The Coventry Carol in 1998 on their No Masters CD A Garland of Carols and a year later on their CD with Wereldkoor Wak Maar Proper, Christmas Truce Kerstbestand.

Corrina Hewat and Mary Macmaster sang Lullay Lullay (The Coventry Carol) live at The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland on 21 December 2003. This concert was released a year later on the Green Linnet CD Cold Blow These Winter Winds.

The Witches of Elswick sang Lullay, Lullay in 2005 on their second and last album, Hell's Belles. They added a fifth verse which was collected by John Jacob Niles from “an old lady” in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in 1934. They noted:

We recorded in December so much to Becky's delight (she gets a little over-excited about Christmas, starting from around August) we decided to stick our one and only carol on the album. It is a haunting record of Herod's slaughter of boys under two in Bethlehem, and “lullay” is reputedly Old English slang for “I saw”. The Carol dates back to the 16th century, unlike Becky's fibre-optic Santa which dates back to 2002.

Bella Hardy sang The Coventry Carol in the BBC 2 programme The Truth About Carols broadcast on Christmas Day 2008 which is shown in this video. She also recorded it 2012 for her CD Bright Morning Star.

Joglaresa sang The Coventry Carol in 2009 on their album of Irish and English songs of wintertide, In Hoary Winter's Night.

West of Eden sang The Coventry Carol on their 2010 CD A Celtic Christmas.

Lady Maisery sang The Coventry Carol in October 2011 in this Bright Young Folk video:

Corncrow sang The Coventry Carol on their 2012 download EP Christmas Dinner for Horses.

GreenMatthews sang The Coventry Carol on their 2012 CD A Medieval Christmas.

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer sang the Coventry Carol in 2014 on their CD A Sound of Christmas Past.

Olivia Ross sang the Coventry Carol on the English Acoustic Collective's 2018 album Christmas Champions.

The Foxglove Trio sang the Coventry Carol on their 2019 Christmas EP Through the Dark Night.

Kate Rusby sang Lu Lay in 2019 on her Christmas CD Holly Head.

Burd Ellen sang the Coventry Carol on their 2020 album Says the Never Beyond.

Lyrics

The Young Tradition sing The Coventry Carol

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay

Oh sisters two, how may we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling ,for whom we do sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

Herod the king in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever morn and day1,
For thy parting nor say nor sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

1 Tim McElwaine told me that “morn and day” is from The Oxford Book of Carols. The New Oxford Book of Carols has “And ever morne and say”, noting this means ‘grieve and sigh’.

Maddy Prior sings Lully, Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay
Thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay.

Oh sisters two, how may we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling, for whom we do sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

Herod the king, in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight
All young children to slay.

Ah woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting nor say nor sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

The Witches of Elswick sing Lullay, Lullay

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Lullay, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lullay, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay

Oh sisters two, how may we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling ,for whom we do sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

Herod the king in his raging
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight
All children young to slay.

Oh woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and pray,
At thy parting nor say nor sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

And when the stars ingather do
In their far venture stay
Then smile as dreaming, Little One,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”