“Well Met, Pretty Maid (The Sweet Nightingale)”


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"


Kennedy'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. 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


  1. Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 187-188, "A New Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Hugill, p. 562, "Sweet Nightingale" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Kennedy 89, "An Eos Whek [The Sweet Nightingale]" (1 text + Cornish translation, 1 tune)
  5. Roud #371
  6. BI, K089


Alternate titles: “The Nightingale”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1776 (Journal from the _Ann_)
Found in: Britain(England(South))