Lilli-Burlero

or Lilli-Bullero and Bullen-a-lah. Said to have been the words of distinction used by the Irish Papists in their massacres of the Protestants in 1641. A song with the refrain of “Lilli-burlero, bullen-a-la!” was written by Lord Wharton, which had a more powerful effect than the philippics of either Demosthenes or Cicero, and contributed not a little to the great revolution of 1688. Burnet says, “It made an impression on the [king's] army that cannot be imagined. ... The whole army, and at last the people, both in city and country, were singing it perpetually ... never had so slight a thing so great an effect.” The song is in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, series ii. bk. 3. (See Sterne: Tristram Shandy, chap. ii.)

Lilli bullero, lilli bullero bullen a la,
Lero lero, lilli bullero, lero lero bullen a la,
Lero lero, lilli bullero, lero lero bullen a la.

Mr. Chappell attributes the air to Henry Purcell.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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