Well Met, Pretty Maid (The Sweet Nightingale)
DESCRIPTION: Singer invites girl to hear the nightingale; he offers to carry her pail. She demurs; "I've hands of my own." They agree to marry; now she's not afraid to go out walking or to "hear the fond tale of the sweet nightingale/As she sings in the valley below"
EARLIEST DATE: 1776 (Journal from the _Ann_)
KEYWORDS: courting love sex marriage bird rejection seduction
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South,West))
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Bell-Combined-EarlyBallads-CustomsBalladsSongsPeasantryEngland, pp. 467-470, "The Sweet Nightingale" (1 text)
Williams-FolkSongsOfTheUpperThames, p. 45, "To Milk in the Valley Below" (1 text) (also Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Wt 494)
Purslow-TheConstantLovers, p. 106, "Well Met, Pretty Maid" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gundry-CanowKernow-SongsDancesFromCornwall, pp. 20-21, "Sweet Nightingale" (1 text plus a Cornish translation, 1 tune in two arrangements)
Huntington-SongsTheWhalemenSang, pp. 187-188, "A New Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, p. 562, "Sweet Nightingale" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 89, "An Eos Whek [The Sweet Nightingale]" (1 text + Cornish translation, 1 tune)
cf. "Now the Winter Is Over (The Ploughboy)" (form, theme)
NOTES [231 words]: Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland's Cornish words are a revivalist translation from the English. The song has been collected from tradition several times, but positively shouts out a composed origin. Kennedy lumps it with "The Valley Below," but as the plots are notably different, I don't. They certainly share a common ancestor, though, possibly in Thomas Arne's opera "Thomas and Sally" (1761). - PJS
I doubt even that much, and the fact that Kennedy lumps them (on no basis at all that I can see) makes me doubt all his other references. The one thing I'll allow is his claim that the song has a very fine melody. I've used a title from JFSS because that's the way I learned the song.
It's very difficult to know what to do with songs of this type. Huntington thinks his text is a survival of the Corydon/Colin-and-Phyllis/Phoebe type. Purslow claims it was based on an aria from Thomas Arne's opera "Thomas and Sally," with Isaac Bickerstaff's words little change although Arne's tune has drifted. As Paul observes, it sounds more like a minstrel than a folk piece. But Theodore Bikel and Cynthia Gooding recorded something quite similar (under the "Well Met" title), and there are enough broadsides with similar form that I decided I needed to include the song.
The trick now is to decide which of these many pieces actually belong here, and which are orphan broadsides.... - RBW
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