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The Song of The Nightingale

Updated on July 3, 2012

Nightingale The Songstress of Love and Longing

Nightingales are named such because they often sing at night as well as during the day. The name, used for over ten centuries, means "night songstress".

The Nightingale with its beautiful night song, is known as the bird of love, because as long as it sings, the darkness of night shelters secret lovers from the eyes of those who may part them.

- Because it sings all night long, the Nightingale was once believed to be free of the need to sleep. One legend, tells of a shepherdess who kept postponing her wedding date. This habit caused such distress and sleeplessness to her fiancée that he finally turned her into a nightingale and cursed her with the same insomnia which her delays had caused him.

- It was once thought that if the Nightingale's eyes and heart were hidden in a drink, the one who drank it would soon die of sleeplessness.

- The Nightingale's song is revered around the world and is considered a good omen to poets, writers, and singers and eating its heart is thought to enhance their talent.

- As parents, the Nightingale is credited with teaching their offspring to sing with perfection; therefore, they are often symbols of education and good teachers.


Christianity and The Nightingale

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~Chinese Proverb

Christians considered the Nightingale's song, a plea for help from the lost souls trapped in Purgatory; it was a cry of longing for one's heavenly home; or an omen of death.

Early Christians, noting that the bird sang with increasing joy as dawn approached, made the nightingale a symbol of the holy joy of the righteous Christian soul, singing in the darkness of this world. It was a joyful song, anticipating the arrival of Christ and His light.

Saint Bonaventure believed the nightingale's last song (similar to the fabled swan song) was always it's most joyful and most beautiful, because it looked forward to its final release from this earthly life. When the nightingale dies, it was thought to be during the ninth hour of the day (three in the afternoon) just at the time of Christ's death on the cross.

The Emperor and The Nightingale - by Hans Christian Andersen

The Nightingale
The Nightingale

Long ago, in an emperor's garden, lived a Nightingale. The emperor ordered the bird to be brought to him, and she was locked in a golden cage. When the emperor received a mechanical Nightingale, the real Nightingale was banished. Years later, the emperor lay dying. At the window appeared the Nightingale, and she sang 'til Death slunk away. The emperor asked her to stay with him, but she knew her song sounded best in the green wood. Still, she visited him often, and sang and sang....


"Like a wedding-song all-melting Sings the nightingale, the dear one."

- Heinrich Heine

Flowers and The Nightingale

The Nightingale is the Bird of the month of May. One legend tells that the first Lily of the Valley loved the Nightingale, but because she was so shy, she hid in the long grass to listen to his song. The Nightingale became lonely, and said he would no longer sing unless the lily of the valley bloomed every May for all too see.

The ancient Persians explained the appearance of red roses with a legend of a nightingale who loved the white rose. When Allah named the rose the "Queen of Flowers", the impulsive bird flew down to embrace her and was pierced by her thorns. From the drops of the nightingale's blood, red roses grew.


Your Thoughts on The Nightingale?

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    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      Enjoyed-Angel Blessed

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great background on an underappreciated bird by most folks. I was an adult before I figured out the mockingbird and his repertoire of various sounds. Sounds like the bird has fans.

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 7 years ago

      After reading these legends I think I almost hear the Nightingale singing now. :)

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 7 years ago

      I love to hear the song of the Nightingale. Thanks for another interesting lens.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 7 years ago from London

      I came across a nightingale singing in a hawthorn thicket one May afternoon. It really was the most beautiful song.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      My Dad used to sing me a song about the Nightingale.

      Guess I grew up loving these bird because of that.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      Wow, the windchimes are fascinating

    • profile image

      SHorsburgh 7 years ago

      What a beautiful lens.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I love this lens on Nightingales,very romantic.