Sweet Nightingale

This Cornish song first appeared in Ancient Poems of the Peasantry of England, 1857, by Robert Bell, who describe it as ‘a curious ditty’. In 1907 Sabine Baring-Gould & Cecil Sharp published it in English Folk-songs For Schools, which is where, in the 1950s, I sang it along with millions of other children, for it was reprinted scores of times in various books and remains well-known and frequently sung. You may notice that unlike our previous song on the same subject, there is no reference to anything saucy, such as playing a merrily on a well-tuned fiddle; it hasn’t been edited out, it was never in the song, despite the obvious gap between the lady saying no and the couple agreeing to marry.

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