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The Rocking Carol

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Rocking Carol
by Percy Dearmer
GenreChristmas carol
Based onTraditional Czech carol

"The Rocking Carol",[1] also known as "Little Jesus, Sweetly Sleep"[2] and "Rocking",[3] is an English Christmas carol by Percy Dearmer. It was translated from Czech in 1928 and is performed as a lullaby to the baby Jesus.


Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst
Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

The carol was first published in an anthology in 1920 in Czechoslovakia, where it was described as a traditional Czech carol.[1] It was loosely translated into English by Percy Dearmer,[1] as part of his effort of resurrecting hymns that had fallen into disuse and introducing European hymns into the Church of England.[1][self-published source] The carol is sung in the form of a lullaby to Jesus while rocking the manger as if it were a more modern cradle,[4] as noted by the repetitive chorus of "We will rock you".[5][6] It was first published in The Oxford Book of Carols, which Dearmer had edited alongside Martin Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams, in 1928.[1]

After initial publication, the carol gradually decreased in popularity until the 1960s when the English actress Julie Andrews performed a commercially released version of it.[7] Following this, it was published in Carols for Choirs by David Willcocks and John Rutter.[3]


"The Rocking Carol" consists of two verses with eight lines each.[8] It is performed with a metre.[2] The hymn continues to be published within Church of England and Anglican hymnals.[6] The hymn has been described as the quintessential lullaby carol compared with similar wording lullaby Christmas carols of "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" as hymnologists opine that the lyrics and melody both strongly suggest the rocking of a cradle.[4]


After publication, the final line of the carol met with dissatisfaction, with a number of hymnal editors altering it from "Darling, darling little man" to "Son of God and Son of Man".[1] Critics of "The Rocking Carol" have argued that it has only minor Biblical references and is written without theological context and historical precision.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Garden, John (2002). The Christmas Carol Dance Book. p. 51. ISBN 1445264447.
  2. ^ a b "Little Jesus, Sweetly Sleep". Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  3. ^ a b "Carols For Choirs 1". Yamaha Music London. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  4. ^ a b Studwell, William (2012). The Christmas Carol Reader. Routledge. p. 30. ISBN 978-1136591457.
  5. ^ Crump, William (2013). The Christmas Carol Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). McFarland. p. 346. ISBN 978-1476605739.
  6. ^ a b Day, David (2003). Emmaus Bible Resources Christ Our Life: Colossians. Church House Publishing. pp. 19–20, 98. ISBN 0715149873.
  7. ^ Jones, Aled (2010). Aled Jones' Favourite Christmas Carols. Random House. p. 133. ISBN 978-1409051107.
  8. ^ "Little Jesus, Sweetly Sleep music". Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  9. ^ Whiteley, Shelia (2008). Christmas, Ideology and Culture. Edinburgh University Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0748631872.
This page was last edited on 5 October 2020, at 06:08
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