Thursday, December 28, 2006

Coventry Carol


Giotto's Flight into Egypt

Robert Croo receives attribution for the lyrics to "The Coventry Carol," written in 1534. The song was performed in Coventry, England, as part of a play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod the Great orders his soldiers to kill all male children under two years of age born in Bethlehem. This is why Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with their newborn son, Jesus. Herod's executive order to kill the prophesised rival to the title "King of the Jews" is evocative of the passages in Exodus in which Pharoah orders the deaths of all baby boys born to Israelite families, and then later, when the Angel of Death takes the firstborn child of each Egyptian family.

December 28 marks the martyrs’ feast day of the Holy Innocents, also known as Childermas. This day is a reminder to me that all children are holy innocents, no matter where or when they were born.



Coventry Carol

Am G E7
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Am Dm Am
By, by, lul-ly, lul-lay.

Am G E7
O sisters too, how may we do,
Am Dm Am*
For to preserve this day.
G E7
This poor youngling for whom we sing
Am Dm Am
By, by, lul-ly, lul-lay.

Am G E7
Herod the king, in his raging,
Am Dm Am
Charged he hath this day.
G E7
His men of might, in his own sight,
Am Dm Am
All young children to slay.

Am G E7
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
Am Dm Am
And every morn and day,
G E7
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Am Dm Am
By, by, lul-ly, lul-lay.


*According to the MIDI sound samples I've heard, this chord is actually a major chord. However, Loreena McKennitt sings it as a minor chord on her album, A Winter Garden, and that's the version I play on my guitar. You may find the MIDI link here and McKennitt's version here.

8 comments:

Lady K said...

I thought that had something to do with Passover, but I didn't think it was this time of year. My Catholicism is SOOOO rusty!

I'll have to check the tune out. I like minor chords a LOT better than major ones. Some major are nice, but they sound so "bubble gum" to me.

Hope you have a GREAT new year!

Nonny said...

Wow, you sure do get productive around the holidays. I've done nothing for days. I've mentally exhausted from all the excitement.

I'm all caught up on your posts and they are wonderful. I love that dollhouse and I'm sure Lucia is going to get hours of enjoyment out of it.

I didn't know anything about the "Holy Innocents". Is that a Catholic holiday? It seems right up their alley with the death and fear and stuff ;)

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lady K: You are right-- Hebrew Scriptures passages about Egypt and the first-born are linked specifically to Passover. However, there are connections everywhere. For example, 40 is an important number: 40 days on the ark, 40 years wandering in the desert, 50 days fasting in the desert. In Sunday readings, the Hebrew scriptures (aka "Old Testament) and New Testament scriptures are always connected somehow.

Nonny: If I get an idea for a blog post, I'll often go ahead and write a draft in advance. I need to do more of that. I'm glad you liked the dollhouse post! It was so much fun to set it up o Christmas Eve.

goddess of clarity said...

I included Alison Moyet's version of the Coventry Carol in my Christmas mix this year, along with "Blue Christmas" by Johnny Cash and "White Christmas" by Aimee Mann. The melancholy Christmas carols are always the best (though I do admit to a soft spot for Mitch Miller).

BlueMamma said...

argh! i used to love singing and playing coventry carol, but ever since i had children of my own, i can't bring myself to do it. the thought of babies torn out of mothers' arms and probably brutally killed before their eyes is too much for my poor soul to handle.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Goddess of Clarity: I like the melancholy (or at least, the songs with the minor chords) Christmas carols best, too. "We Three Kings" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel" are two such favorites.

BlueMamma: The Coventry Carol makes me think about Darfur a lot these days. I know we're supposed to "put more pressure" on our leaders to help stop the genocide, but really, could a person feel any more powerless to help? It just makes me feel like vomiting, though that doesn't help either.

Lone Star Ma said...

I don't know why your blog doesn't want me to comment anymore but it has lost muchas comments of mine lately.

I have always found that to be the most depressing song in existence, but it is true that we must remember all the Holy Innocents who are martyred to greed and violence everyday. You are good to remind us.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: Blogger beta (though they claim they're no longer in beta) is mean to my friends who are signing in without gmail accounts. Yuck. I can't go back, I can only go forward, whereever that is. If all else fails, publish as "anonymous."

Tomorrow's post will be much cheerier!