Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child, by by, lully, lullay! O sisters too, how may we do for to preserve this day this poor youngling for whom we do sing by by, lully, lullay?
The coventry carol, written in the middle ages, is by far the most haunting of the traditional carols. While many of the songs remember the end of Christ’s life, this hymn relates the story of the darkest chapter of the nativity story. It was written for the medieval nativity plays for which Coventry County was famous.
It tells the part of the story we do not want to remember – when King Herod slaughtered all of the children in Bethlehem to try to kill the Christ-child. It mirrors the beginning of Moses’ life, but unlike the ancient prophet, Jesus flees to Egypt for protection. He and his parents become refugees in order that his destiny might be fulfilled.
Something we should always consider throughout the holiday season is where we see the Christ-child in our midst. Unlike the gentle lullabies we often sing, this carol shows us a different child. Where are the refugee children who are fleeing for their lives? How are we helping them? Are we protecting them from the King Herods of this world?
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 mourn and pray for thy parting neither say nor sing, by by, lully, lullay.