Mentioned in scores of traditional English folksongs, for some reason the nightingale – not much bigger than a sparrow – is a symbol of love. This song was collected by Henry Hammond from William Bartlett in Wimborne Union (a workhouse) in Dorset, 1905.
From Joseph Elliot of Todber, Dorset, September 1905; Henry March, Dorchester, January 1907 and another unnamed singer. Collected by Henry Hammond.
Off! was painted by Edmund Blair Leighton 1911.
Collected by George Butterworth from Mr & Mrs Verral , Horsham, Sussex, 1908.
The drawing is by Horace Knowles.
The tune came from Walker Searle’s children in Amberley, Sussex, May 1907, collected by George Butterworth May 1907. The words are from a broadside.
The illustration is Thomas Rowlandson’s The Sailor’s Return, or in the case of the sailor in our song, what he expected when he came home.
I used to tell a great many tales as a professional folk singer and later as a teacher. This one came from Amabel Williams-Ellis in 1960 who got it from Edwin Hartland in 1930.