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Cornish Nightingale

Marje 19 May 09 - 07:28 AM
Keith A of Hertford 19 May 09 - 07:46 AM
Keith A of Hertford 19 May 09 - 07:49 AM
GUEST 19 May 09 - 07:57 AM
GUEST,mayomick 19 May 09 - 10:08 AM
GREEN WELLIES 19 May 09 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,Silas 19 May 09 - 10:21 AM
Rifleman (inactive) 19 May 09 - 11:28 AM
breezy 19 May 09 - 11:54 AM
Marje 19 May 09 - 12:07 PM
doc.tom 19 May 09 - 12:54 PM
Marje 19 May 09 - 01:05 PM
Anne Lister 19 May 09 - 02:58 PM
Little Robyn 19 May 09 - 03:28 PM
GUEST 19 May 09 - 05:11 PM
GREEN WELLIES 19 May 09 - 05:49 PM
Marje 20 May 09 - 06:31 AM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 07:02 AM
GUEST 20 May 09 - 07:19 AM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 07:27 AM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 07:45 AM
GUEST 20 May 09 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 09:01 AM
GUEST 20 May 09 - 09:18 AM
GUEST 20 May 09 - 09:20 AM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 09:36 AM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 09:46 AM
GUEST 20 May 09 - 09:52 AM
Marje 20 May 09 - 12:09 PM
GUEST,mayomick 20 May 09 - 01:23 PM
sapper82 20 May 09 - 03:33 PM
Rifleman (inactive) 20 May 09 - 03:44 PM
Marje 20 May 09 - 04:00 PM
Barry Finn 21 May 09 - 01:33 AM
Anne Lister 21 May 09 - 03:02 AM
doc.tom 21 May 09 - 04:30 AM
Tug the Cox 21 May 09 - 05:26 AM
mayomick 21 May 09 - 09:53 AM
Marje 21 May 09 - 10:15 AM
greg stephens 21 May 09 - 10:27 AM
GUEST 21 May 09 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,mayomick 21 May 09 - 11:52 AM
Phil Edwards 03 Nov 14 - 07:46 AM
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Subject: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 19 May 09 - 07:28 AM

The "Cornish Nightingale" song ("My sweetheart, come along...") was mentioned in another thread, and it's prompted me to ask this: can this be a Cornish song? Because my understanding is that there are no nightingales in Cornwall, and there were none found there in a survey about 100 years ago (and, come to that, very few in Devon).
I'm wondering whether:
a) it relates to a different bird and has been wrongly translated from the Cornish tongue, or
b) it's from a very old source, and perhaps there were once nightingales in Cornwall? or
c) it's not a Cornish song at all and was written by someone from elsewhere in England and attributed to Cornwall?

Anyone out there with enough knowledge of both folklore and ornithology to enlighten me?

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 19 May 09 - 07:46 AM

Why should there be no nightingales in Cornwall?
I can not believe that to be true.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 19 May 09 - 07:49 AM

It is true.
Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 09 - 07:57 AM

it's not a Cornish song at all

By that logic Sir Eglamore can't be an English song as there are no dragons in England...


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 19 May 09 - 10:08 AM

I don't have the book to hand , but seem to remember that Peter Kennedy has a translation of the song from English into Cornish in his book Folksongs of the British Isles . Kennedy gives an explanation of the songs roots and its connection to Cornwall in the notes .


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GREEN WELLIES
Date: 19 May 09 - 10:11 AM

Nightingales are visitors to the UK arriving usually in April and singing through to late May/early June, they leave our shores after breeding any time from late July to September. They're mainly seen in the south east, but there are recorded sightings in Dorset, we have them in Worcestershire so it's not impossible that they could have found their way from Dorset to Devon and Cornwall.
Contrary to popular myth they do sing during the day as well as the evening. If you ever get the chance to hear one – close your eyes and listen - you'll think you're in the jungle. Glorious sound.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,Silas
Date: 19 May 09 - 10:21 AM

"By that logic Sir Eglamore can't be an English song as there are no dragons in England..."

Oh yeah, what about Edwina Curry?


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 19 May 09 - 11:28 AM

"there are no dragons in England..."

Well St. George was, reputedly, from, what's now, the Lebanon

and of course *exits singing* "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square Square..."


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: breezy
Date: 19 May 09 - 11:54 AM

Of course its Cornish


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:07 PM

Well, of course there are now dragons now in England - all those gallant heroes killed 'em all! But not so the nightingales, which would be a difficult target as they're not easy to spot.

Thanks for the Peter Kennedy reminder, mayomick. I do have the book, so I've had a look. It includes Cornish words which were written by a 20th-century Cornish scholar. The tune seems to have come from St Ives, and the words from either Truro or Plymouth, at least as early as mid-19th century (and both are possibly much older).

But I'm stil puzzled as to why the Cornish would sing about a bird that they never saw or heard - it appears that they're only occasionally found in Devon, and not in Cornwall (Dorset is a long way from Devon, as any holidaymaker who drives down to the south-west will tell you).

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: doc.tom
Date: 19 May 09 - 12:54 PM

Oh dear, Oh dear.
The Nightingale, a widespread song collected in other counties too, became, in Charlie Bate's version, known as The Cornish Nightingale from the late 60s in order to distinguish it from the "both sat down together love" Nightingale which had been adopted from the revival into the local vernacular tradition at that point.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 19 May 09 - 01:05 PM

Well, according to Peter Kennedy, both the tune and the words were first noted from the singing of Cornish lead miners in Germany (I'm not making this up!). They, and various other Cornish and Devon sources, said it had been sung there for generations at pay-days and wakes. Baring Gould later noted the tune from someone in St Ives, but also heard it sung in various other parts of Cornwall. So although it may not have been referred to as the "Cornish Nightingale" until much later, it was certainly identified by the mid 19th century as a long-established song in Cornwall and Devon.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Anne Lister
Date: 19 May 09 - 02:58 PM

Nightingales were found in medieval tales in various places, including Brittany (which shares some folk tales and a lot of linguistic features with Cornwall) so it's possible it simply turned up as a useful songbird rather than a piece of empirical natural history.

Perhaps?

Anne


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Little Robyn
Date: 19 May 09 - 03:28 PM

And anyway,
"The sweet notes of the chough....."
doesn't sound right!
Robyn


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 19 May 09 - 05:11 PM

Marje

Why can you not accept that it was probably a poetic device?

There have been no nightingales in Berkeley Square, ever.

Why do you need to have them in Cornwall?   

Tabster has it about right:
[It's] a useful songbird rather than a piece of empirical natural history.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GREEN WELLIES
Date: 19 May 09 - 05:49 PM

Marje

Whilst us car travelling humans may find the distance from Dorset to Cornwall a long haul, for migrating song birds its a mere flap of the wing, take Swallows, Swifts, etc etc, South Africa to Worcestershire as your maiden flight and thats not even taking into consideration being blown off course by strong winds. (As per my previous post, they do not arrive in the UK until April).

With all that in mind its quite feasible that there may have been Nightingales in Cornwall - and Berkley Square, for that matter.

Or........ maybe it was the only birdie name that fitted.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 09 - 06:31 AM

The whole point of the Berkeley Square song is that there wasn't really a nightingale - it might as well have said, "A Unicorn walked in Berkeley Square".

Guest above: I'm ready to accept that it may be just a poetic device, but I wouldn't have thought it would appeal as such to people who were unfamiliar with nightingales.

However, further Googling suggests that they were once (this must be pre-20th century) found as far west as Cornwall, so maybe they were known there at the time the song was created, or in literary/folklore sources dating further back still.

So I'm no longer as puzzled as I was, although still interested if anyone has anything further to add.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 07:02 AM

The song title given in the Kennedy book is "An Eos Whek ". I assume that this translates as Sweet Nightingale . So the Cornish language has (or had) a word for nightingale   . They would hardly have had a word for it if the bird itself wasn't known in Cornwall .I don't think they had any post-modernists back in those days ,did they?


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 09 - 07:19 AM

They would hardly have had a word for it if the bird itself wasn't known in Cornwall

That's not good logic. Why do we have the English words Ostrich, Rhea etc?


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 07:27 AM

Because we took those words from other languages perhaps guest . But the word "whek " is totally different to "nightingale" - unless the Cornish took the word from another gaelic language of course.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 07:45 AM

The Kennedy book gives the name of the person who re-translated this song back into Cornish . There is a possibility that he took the word "whek" from another language , but it seems more likely that there had been the word and therefore the bird .
The Nightingale is the bird that supposedly only sings at night and its singing is used as a metaphor for the joys of love , the phenomenom of which was undoubtedly known to the Cornish .There is the possibility that the Cornish wanted to sing about this latter phenomenom in a metaphorical way and that they had heard that a bird existed in other parts of the world that only sang at night viz the nightingale and thought that they would translate the word as "whek". That wouldn't be very logical would it ?


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 09 - 07:53 AM

The word 'Whek' translates as Sweet. The 'Nightingale' word is presumably 'Eos' although it's equally possible that it could mean something like 'Small Bird' there not being a direct translation.

I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 09:01 AM

I thought that eos would be a bit like the Irish gaelic dheas which could be translated as sweet ,but thanks for that correction guest . I tried looking up the words on a couple of Cornish on-line translation sites - I tried Breton ones as well on the off chance , but there were no entries for either eos or whek .

The song had been sang at one time in Cornish and the English song we all know and love was a translation which was then re-translated into Cornish ,presumably by language revivalists , sometime in the 20th century . My only source for all this is the Kennedy book which quotes one of the lead miners who Marje mentioned , Cap'n John Stocker ,saying that he had heard the song sang by his grandfather who had died at the age of 100 . The English version was first written down in 1857 by Robert Bell who had heard it from these Cornish miners in Germany . The song itself has very definite links to Cornwall and was very well known there ,but wasn't known to any great extent (as far as I am aware) outside of Cornwall until more recently .

A few questions for any Cornish speakers on mudcat:
Did the language revivalists invent the word Eos or did they use ,as guest suggests , a word that meant something like small bird ? Is there a generic word in Cornish for "smallbird" . If not ,what sort of small bird did they use as a substitute for nightingale ? Does eos translate as thrush ,blackbird or some bird that did exist in Cornwall ?
It all seems a bit convoluted to me and the simplest solution would be that , whatever about Berekley Square , the sweet nightingale was reasonably well known in Cornwall at some time , and that it was called an eos whek . Perhaps it died with the language .


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 09 - 09:18 AM

Interesting. I've just found that according to this page (scroll down to where the couplet are) that Eos is Welsh for Nightingale.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 09 - 09:20 AM

Should have read it more closely. Literal translation of 'Eos' is Welsh is 'Lark'


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 09:36 AM

It's easy to confuse the two guest .

SCENE V. Capulet's orchard.

    Enter ROMEO and JULIET above, at the window

JULIET

    Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
    It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
    That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
    Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
    Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

ROMEO

    It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
    No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks
    Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
    Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
    Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
    I must be gone and live, or stay and die


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 09:46 AM

Before guest starts saying that the second last refuge of a scoundrel is quoting shakespeare , I will concede that there is a possibility that the word nightingale may never have existed in Cornish and that some over-enthusiastic language enthusiast might have been anxious to claim the song for Cornwall.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 09 - 09:52 AM

I don't think that at all mayomick. I think it's quite possible that the Nightingale was known in Cornwall from stories from/vists to Wales and hence the Welsh word was used for the song.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 09 - 12:09 PM

There are no nightingales in Wales either, but that's no reason they wouldn't have a word for them (it doesn't stop English having words for tiger or pelican).

I know someone who's in contact with an expert scholar of the Cornish language. He is, alas, less of an expert in the use of e-mail, but I'm sure communication can be established, and I will report back if he has anything of interest to add.

This is all turning out to be quite interesting.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 20 May 09 - 01:23 PM

It certainly is hotting up Marje . I've contacted a British Ornotholigist Institute boffin to see if he can help .I'm starting to suspect that somebody is hiding a nightingale fossill somewhere down in Cornwall which may yet prove to be the missing link we're searching for . He's holding on to it hoping that someone will cough up a few quid for it .


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: sapper82
Date: 20 May 09 - 03:33 PM

Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,Silas - PM
Date: 19 May 09 - 10:21 AM

"By that logic Sir Eglamore can't be an English song as there are no dragons in England..."

Oh yeah, what about Edwina Curry?


If you think she's a dragon, what the hell does that make Margaret Beckett? Godzilla's Mother????


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Rifleman (inactive)
Date: 20 May 09 - 03:44 PM

The whole point of the Berkeley Square song is that there wasn't really a nightingale - it might as well have said, "A Unicorn walked in Berkeley Square".

It was also meant as a joke, but that bit seemed to fly right over certain heads. I despair, I truly do!


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 20 May 09 - 04:00 PM

The comment about the unicorn wasn't made in deadly earnest either, you know!

As it happens, I've just been talking with someone who said the only time he'd ever heard a nightingale was in London, so there you go. He is now on the trail of the Cornish language expert and of the "Eos Whek", so we can all sleep soundly in our beds tonight. He also says that anything written in "modern" Cornish is fake rubbish and shouldn't be be relied on to prove anything at all, so you can all put away your "Holiday Cornish in Two Weeks" phrasebooks, they're rubbish.

To be continued...
or maybe not. We'll see.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Barry Finn
Date: 21 May 09 - 01:33 AM

We have no nightingales here in the States either but we do have a cowboy verizon of the "Nightingale" called "The Wild Rippling Waters" but then we don't have Kings or Queens either but we do have songs about them. We don't have any "Canada-i-o's" come to think of it.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Anne Lister
Date: 21 May 09 - 03:02 AM

The Bretons had a word for it .... Laustic ....comes into the medieval tales written down by Marie de France in the 12th century. Breton and Cornish (and Welsh) are related languages, so I'd have expected an old Cornish word to be a little similar to the Breton. But maybe not. Maybe Marie de France got her birds muddled.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: doc.tom
Date: 21 May 09 - 04:30 AM

"who re-translated this song back into Cornish." "The song had been sang at one time in Cornish and the English song we all know and love was a translation." This is fascinating - please could either of you give the references for the song formerly being sung in Cornish?
Thanks
Tom


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Tug the Cox
Date: 21 May 09 - 05:26 AM

The nightingale in question is not a bird at all. Throughout the canon of folk song the 'hear the nightingale sing' metaphor is aeuphemism for sexual activity, in the same way that 'Cuckoo's nest' is a euphemistic metaphor for the site of such activity. This is just a song about two young people sowing their wild oats, as is 'they both sat down together there to hear the nightingale sing.'
   I find it really amusing that generations of maiden school ma'ms encouraged their children to sing this song imagining it referred to a rural idyll. Thr song was called the Coprnish nighjtingale not because sex is specific to cornwall ( though incest might be,....well, North Devon too)but because it was a Cornish variant of the song.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: mayomick
Date: 21 May 09 - 09:53 AM

Doc Tom
The reference is in the Peter Kennedy book mentioned above . I haven't got the book with me at the moment , but will post what it says tomorrow . There are no known records of the original Cornish words .

Tug the Cox ,

Yes it is a metaphor , but the choice of the nightingale for the symbol is interesting if the bird itself was unknown in Cornwall .

Did the songwriter(s) and the people who sang The Nightingale in Cornwall know the sweet singing bird itself or only the metaphor ?

I don't know if it's true that this song is a "Cornish variant of the song". The song was widely known in Cornwall , but not elsewhere - as far as I am aware - until the latter years of the nineteenth century .
Barry ,
I'd love to hear the cowboy version .Does it yodel?


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Marje
Date: 21 May 09 - 10:15 AM

Right, for anyone who's still interested in a pedantic way:

The Cornish language guy had the following to say:

1. "There are no Cornish folks songs". I would say he's using both "Cornish" and "folk songs" in a strict way, but I think what he means is that any songs that exist now in Cornish are modern reconstructions, and it is very unlikely that any words or even tunes of true Cornish origin remain. [The 19th century singers of this song claimed that it was originally sung in Cornish, but as the language hadn't been spoken for over a century by that time, it is unlikely that they could know this, and it was probably fanciful wishful thinking on their part.]

2. There have never been nightingales in Cornwall.

3. "Eos" does mean "Nightingale" but he doesn't think it had an equivalent in ancient Cornish. He thinks it more likely to have been created in the 20th century revival of Cornish, and coined by some scholar from the Welsh (which is also Eos).

And (not him but me speaking now, answering a couple of posters above) yes, of course the nightingale is a symbol for rural rumpy-pumpy, in the same way as a fiddle, or a gun, or a bird-in-the-bush, or various other creatures and things can be. That doesn't make it any less interesting to try to trace the origins of the "nightingale" as a motif in Cornish and English song.

Oh, and one final point, for anyone still awake: only the male nightingale sings, so "as she sings in the valley below" is ornithologically questionable.

I think that's about all I have to say, and probably more than most people want to know.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: greg stephens
Date: 21 May 09 - 10:27 AM

TO makes a few obvious points. I am Cornish. I have known this song a long time, since I was child. I have lived in many places. It is only recently that I have discovered what a nightingale looks like. Having not studied these things, I have never had any knowledge of whether nightingales existed where I lived, neither had I any idea what their song sounded like. In view of this, and presumably many other people's similar background, I doubt if the absence of nightingales in Cornwall can have anything much to with the origins of the song, either in or out of Cornwall.
I also know that a lot of my fellow compatriots(or whatever term you care to use) have spent a lot of time and ingenuity creating a body of "Cornish language folksongs", or convincing themeselves that such a heritage exists. Well, I would be the first to be absolutely delighted if we could rediscover such a priceless collective possession. But, alas, I have come to the conclusion, like most people, that it doesn't exist. Cornish language versions of the Nightingale, or anything else, are modern inventions.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST
Date: 21 May 09 - 10:44 AM

Songs were spread by travellers, fishermen, miners etc . all over. because a certain collector happened upon it for the first time in Cornwall, or anywhere else, gives us no clue as to its origin. presumably Cornish victorians understood 'coals to Newcastle,' and could include it in their speech, without even being aware of exactly where Newcastle was, never mind having seen or heard 'it'.
Similarly, the metaphors of folk song could be appreciated wherever they originated and wherever they were adopted.


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 21 May 09 - 11:52 AM

I just got an email from Dr Rob from the British Institute of Ornithology on the subject .
"I think we can reasonably safely say it hasn't been a Cornish bird for at least 200 years and certainly not a common one.........."

"Nightingales are fairly well known, certainly by reputation so I'm not sure the existence of a tune such as this can really be held up as evidence that they bred in the area."

So it seems from the evidence that the song is based on the metaphor alone ,and that Cornish language enthusiasts have overstated their county's connection to the song .


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Subject: RE: Cornish Nightingale
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 03 Nov 14 - 07:46 AM

On my mother's suggestion, we sang "A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square" at my father's memorial service; apparently it was 'their song'. I had no idea.

The whole point of the Berkeley Square song is that there wasn't really a nightingale

Ah, but there was.

I know, 'cause I was there...


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