Sweet Nightingale


Jon calls this “A gentle little song with a great chorus. We sing this at Royal Traditions nights at the Royal in Dungworth.”

Everywhere I look this seems to come up as being a Cornish song, but things are slightly confused as there is also a version that involves a soldier or ‘bold grenadier.’ It seems Sandy Denny,  Lou Killen and Peter Bellamy have all covered this version, however, so check out Mainly Norfolk, although there seems little to add. It’s another nice song that fits the courtship and romance of the month of May. Mind you she has a very sudden change of heart here! I wonder why?



44 Responses to “Sweet Nightingale”

  1. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    My patience has been rewarded………….I was 5 years old (what a memory I have!)when I first heard and absorbed this lovely song……..when I sing it “apres morris” I have to put up with the hoi poloi winding me up by adding “Tra la la” after the second line of each verse!

  2. Rosie says:

    Brilliant! What a perfect way to start the day.

  3. Gail Duff says:

    Used to sing this one in primary school, too and that actually put me off singing it for years, but it’s a lovely song.
    The other one you’re thinking of is probably what I call ‘The Grenadier and the Lady’, which has the line in the chorus of ‘And they sat down together, love, to hear the nightingales sing’. It’s the usual soldier meets girl, she asks him to marry her, he’s already married and goes ‘off to India for seven long years’. It was very much sung round here about thirty years ago, then dropped out of the repertoire. I’ve been reviving it of late as it’s another really good chorus song.

  4. Dick A says:

    Like Muzza and Gail, this song takes me back to singing in the primary school. It is well worth hearing it with an adult ear. I hope it will stay in the repertoire.

  5. John Biggs says:

    Yes I think most of us, ‘of a certain generation’, sang this one (and many others) at school, and I think we have to thank the B.B.C. Broadcasts to Schools,’ Singing Together’ programs for that, along with enthusiastic music teachers. My wife still has all the books that used to accompany the series each term, and they often come out during our Folk Workshop evenings now.
    Beautifully sung, Jon. I shall use this as evidence when other singers want to rip through it at a more jaunty pace.

  6. Shelley says:

    I used to sing this one at school too – in a three part choral arrangement. Lovely!

  7. Jane Ramsden says:

    Many thanks, Jon, one and all, for the fond trip down Memory Lane with this one! And sung so as to sound fresh as well as familiar. Lovely!

  8. Mick Hursey says:

    Both the Sweet Nightingale and the Bold Grenadier are widely sung in North Cornwall still. I learnt them both from Charlie Bate and Pitman, whilst singing in the Cornish Arms, St Merryn and we still sing them in the same bar every May Day. Great songs and full of great memories!

    By the way, I totally agree with the tra-la-la, it ruins a great song and it has to be sung at the right speed not too fast!

  9. Diana says:

    I must be one of the few who has never encountered this song before, but I think it is lovely and it would be spoilt if everyone joined in the chorus.

  10. Colin says:

    lovely to have this reprised – our sister side Cuckoos Nest have taken to singing this ‘apres morris’ The chorus is a great joiner in our view, and its great to have the girls singing as well as Brighton Men

  11. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Wonderful ! Everyone around the breakfast table here singing their heads off.

    Muzza, how was your day in London ? Did you get to Cecil Sharp Ho. for the E.F.S.D.S. family dance day ? I have friends who were there and they really enjoyed it.

  12. John Bryson says:

    I remember writing the same this time last year, so please forgive me for repeating myself, but I feel there are some great songs here in the month of May, a real pleasure listening to them and singing along

  13. Jan says:

    I am another who has sung thi since school days, and love it still.

    Muzza, I hope you are not too cream-crackered after your busy day to visit the Old Frog and see what I’ve put there.

  14. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Old John B(WelshM)………had a great day,so many stairs to go up and down in London..even the pubs have loos that take you down steep stairs into the bowels of the earth.(was that a pun?)Very lucky with the weather…so many people..hard to find a place to sit down for a moment. How the heck our dancers coped I do not know.Glad to get home and reminisce..didn’t enjoy the cramp last night though.Poor old fella!
    Ref this lovely song……I’m inspired to have a go and put my efforts on YOUTUBE as soon as I return from my impending holiday in St.Agnes Cornwall 14th-21st.May.
    I’ll have a lot of catching up to do…no AFSAD for a week..aaaggghhhh.

  15. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Muzza: I have seen the pics! ‘Didn’t you have a luvverley day, the day you went to…’ WestMorrister! Do we have to call ye Sir Muzza of Morris now? We will miss you on here whilst on holiday. Do not begrudge ye… but am Jealous Jane, as no can do same, being the Cat-Keeper of Frizley! Without yer banter, there is a chance I may have finished my AFSAD archive by the time ye return. At least you will not miss the final songs. (You need a mobile that does t’internetty. Having said that, I do not do such missen, tho’ mine can access it, despite being the olde clamshell! I have a more modern one, relegated to taking admittedly brill photos, but otherwise is rubbish to use!)

    I have nearly finished going through the November comments for my song records. I thought I’d be through the carols, but forgot about the Sheffield Carol Season! I have retained some of the banter along the way, like your Zen of Sock… do not forget them (tho allowed off for paddling!)… and take a vest. In Yorkshire we say, ‘N’er cast a clout ’til May is out.’ Which means: Don’t di-vest yersen of yer Winter clobber til June… at the earliest… Lol. Have a great hol!

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    And I suggest no perpendicular picnics:

  17. Linda says:

    What a lovely song for Sunday afternoon beautifully sung. How can you resist not joining in the chorus.

  18. Diana says:

    @Jane you are going to be so jealous I have got a 14.1/2″ by 8″ paper picture of the EDF flame from “The Observer”.

    @Linda only a week to go now before S and B.

  19. Reynard says:

    I’m happy! for I just won Rudyard Kipling Made Exceedingly Good Songs on eBay even if it cost me nearly £90. That is the last LP of Peter Bellamy’s that I was missing, and on is are The Roman Centurion’s Song (which Jon sang on April 7), Big Steamers (July 15), and the most wonderful Recessional.

  20. Diana says:

    Congratulations then. You now have a complete collection that must be really gratifying for you. It’s not very often that luck comes your way – not “you” speciifically but “you” in general if you grasp my meaning. I have heard the first song but not Big Steamers not being aware of AFSAD last July unfortunately. I expect you are feeling very pleased with yourself, and why not indulge oneself if you are able.

  21. Reynard says:

    More patience than luck… I have seen this album on auction only one other time in the last five years and was outbidden then. And I’m not complete yet, just on Bellamy’s LPs and CDs. There are still a few cassettes missing that are even more elusive than this LP.

  22. Diana says:

    You will just have to keep persevering won’t you? I am about to either bore you to tears or send you to sleep. I came across a word today which sent me back to my schooldays. I had a biology teacher who was always dishing out lines. All the class suffered some more than others – I must have been in the “more than” set cos I remember the words so well. We all had to write 100 times “Loquacity and unnecessary verbosity are tendencies of mine which I must endeavour to control and subdue to the utmost of my limitations”. I musthave been a real chatterbox. Still awake are we?

  23. Diana says:

    Obviously not. Sweet dreams.

  24. Muzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    Loved it yet again…………..not got round to Youtube yet

  25. Jan says:

    Hello Muzza! I was beginning to wonder if you had been overwhelmed by the mayday Morris this year as all has been so quiet on AFSAD recently.

  26. Linda says:

    still can’t resist the chorus. One year on and went to see Spiers n Boden last night at Bury met did a beautiful version of In The Shade of the Old’Arris Mill .

  27. OldMuzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    I still haven’t done my Youtube version….and I’d better hurry up as I have windows XP and likely to crash any time and I wont know how to do the transfer with a new system…..Oh I did enjoy the sing-along-a-Jon to this one…so good….I did it again!

  28. Linda says:

    @Muzza, Hey don’t desert us Muzza come on get that system sorted……… the Girlies would miss your banter………….
    Back to the sing along

  29. OldMuzza (N.W Surrey-UK) says:

    Oh Linda…thank you for your kind words……….you’ve made an (another) old man very happy on a beautiful sunny May Morning……back to Betsy and her pail!…….she can carry it herself if she keeps giving me all this grief!

  30. Linda says:

    Still a brilliant chorus and still being sung at The Royal…..

  31. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Just sent out sixty reminders to old school chums for the reunion lunch in June……I think I’ll put ‘Choral interlude-‘The Nightingale’ on the menu…get the old ‘uns singng.

  32. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Oh………. loved to hear the Nightingale again………..I still sing it
    Noticed dear old Les Barker’s ‘Cliff top picnic’ had been posted above and ….as there is nobody about …just me…..I have put the link here for my version…..I note that I have changed some of the words over time!…I hope I have posted the correct one

  33. Linda says:

    Ok Muzza I’ ll take the bate Your not alone there’s me n thee….Love the poem, and we.re still singing Sweet Nightingale at The Royal

  34. Linda says:

    Colin wants to know where you got the shirt from?

  35. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Hi Lindy Lou………so glad somebody is out there…….WELL…….the shirt just followed me home one very dark night

  36. Linda says:

    Still singing this at The Royal and enjoying the folk night there. Last folk night there was Cohen Braithwaite Kilcoyne well worth a watch if you get the chance…..

  37. Barbara says:

    I love this song & yes, I sang it at the Royal last week too! I agree with you Linda, Cohen is amazing, see him if you can!

  38. Old Muzza (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Oh Linda….I saw your comment yesterday and am in full throstle….and the sun is shining and I’m transported back to being a 7 year old in 1946 as we country danced to ‘Come lasses and Lads’ and sang this enchanting Cornish song

  39. Linda says:

    OK Muzza lar lar lar ……ready…. off we go…..looking forward to getting back to The Royal for this one

  40. OldMuzza (NWSurrey UK) says:

    Lindy Lou…..I’ll give you La,La,La….you are soooo cheeky…..and I notice you peeked early and listened on the 11th!!!!!
    I’ve just grabbed the old melodeon and rattled off a couple of verses BUT….horror of horrors….haven’t sung for so long the old voice (and I mean old!) is in tatters…..hope I can get it back a bit.

  41. Linda says:

    Always connect this with The Royal which for those of you who know the pub will be pleased to hear that pies are being made ready for re opening !!!

  42. OldMuzza(NW Surrey UK) says:

    Lindy Lou……you peeked a couple of days early!!!!!so…it’s just me giving it welly to bring joy this rain lashed May morning and I’m damned if I’m gonna carry Betty’s bucket!

  43. OldMuzza(NWSurrrey UK) says:

    Remembering my childhood of the early 40s I felt like saying “Oh to be young again”
    but then I thought of the state of the world today and being young today looks a pretty bleak.

  44. OldMuzza(NWSurreyUK) says:

    Ref the videos above…we have to be thankful for the treasures (alas there will be no more) that Les Barker has left us…..check out his other poems for a feast of clever, abstract thinking and a good laugh!

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