A Century Of Ballads 1810-1910, Their Composers & Singers

With Some Introductory Chapters On Old Ballads And Ballad Makers - online book.

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Purcell's genius, it is curious to note by way of contrast that he was the composer of the air afterwards associated with the famous " Lillibur-lero," the words of which have been ascribed at different times to Lord Wharton and the Earl of Dorset, though it is probable that neither was actually the author.
This song, which had twelve verses, according to the version printed in Percy's Reliqties, had a good deal to do with the fermenting of the revolution of 1688. It was sung all over the country by army and people alike, and the refrain ran thus :—
Lero, lero, lilli burlero, lero, lero, bullen a la—
twice repeated after each verse. The words are of an extremely feeble nature, and it is difficult to understand the song's immense popularity, unless it were due to the catchiness of the tune. Says a contemporary writer : " A foolish ballad was made at that time, treating the Papists, and chiefly the Irish, in a very ridiculous manner, which had a burden, said to be Irish words, ' Lero, lero, lilliburlero,' that made an impression on the King's army, that cannot be imagined by those that saw it not. The whole army, and at last the people, both in city and country, were singing it perpetually. And, perhaps, never had so slight a thing so great an effect."
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