12 Carols: I Saw Three Ships and the Coventry Carol

Our two Christmas carols for this morning are both traditional English carols.

The first, #10, I Saw Three Ships, is an upbeat song from the 17th century that some people believe is a happier version of Greensleeves (better known to Christmas aficionados as "What Child Is This").

I love this tune but the lyrics are a little odd. I don’t remember ships being in the original Christmas story at all; I always envisioned Mary being carried into town by a donkey. But hey, what do I know?

Christmas Carol #11, the Coventry Carol, also has some weird lyrics, but if you’ve actually read the Christmas story in the Bible it’ll sound familiar. If incredibly depressing.

Because it’s about babies dying.

No, seriously. The song is about the Massacre of the Innocents, a nasty little episode in which King Herod ordered all the babies killed because he didn’t know (or maybe just didn’t care) which one was the savior.

 It’s a suitably haunting tune for its subject matter.

The other 12 carols can be found here.

And we have one more to go today.

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