The Coventry Carol
Acton Institute Powerblog

The Coventry Carol

The Coventry Carol (Words Attributed to Robert Croo, 1534; English Melody, 1591). Click here for MIDI version (and sing along!)

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

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay

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


This song was “part of a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The haunting melody was sung by the mothers of Bethlehem to their children, just before King Herod’s soldiers entered the scene (for the slaughter).”

Here’s the biblical text, following the flight of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to Egypt:

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, / weeping and great mourning, / Rachel weeping for her children / and refusing to be comforted, / because they are no more.”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.