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Lilli-Burleʹro or Lilli-Bulleʹro and Bullen-a-lah

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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 Demosthenēs 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.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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