Monday, December 28, 2009

The Coventry Carol

I never realized the Coventry Carol, frequently sung at Christmas, refers to the Holy Innocents. I was doing looking through an old church year handbook and discovered the following:

This beautiful English lulaby carol originated in the Coventry Corpus Christi Mystery Plays performed in the 15th century. In a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, the women of Bethlehem sing this song just before Herod's soldiers come to slaughter their children. It tells the story of the murder of the Holy Innocents, and is sung on December 28, the feast of those tiny martyrs.

Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child.
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay thou little tiny child
Bye, bye, lully, lullay

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing
Bye, bye 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.

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye lully, lullay.

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