The begining of the Carol is a narration of a story, not directly addressing the Lord, but, instead, addressing the listener. The refrain "I love thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle 'till morning is nigh" begins a personal message addressed to the Lord, from the child (or singer) of the Carol. The balance of the Carol is directly from the singer addresing the Lord. Therefore, the quotation marks are appropriate. "Thee" not (the) is the expression of Love to our Lord.
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