To the poets of Persian during the great classic period gol o bolbol or the rose and the nightingale were archetypal symbols of the beloved and the lover. In political poetry the poet (nightingale) sang of the virtues of his prince (rose); in mystical poetry the poet (nightingale) yearned for the soul’s union with God (the rose); in lyric poems the lover (nightingale) sang ceaselessly of his longing for the beautiful, proud and often cruel beloved (the rose). Because of its varied meanings the image became popular not only in poetry but in the decorative arts and appeared in tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, ceramics, fabric and paintings.
During the craze for things “Oriental” in the 19th century the image was to appear in European* poetry, literature, music and art. In early 1831 the young Russian poet Aleksei Koltsov published The Nightingale Enslaved By the Rose, a short poem in the “Persian” style which he dedicated to Alexander Pushkin. It has been set to music by three Russian composers: Nikolai Artsybushev, Anton Rubinstein, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
The second of the four songs that make up his Opus 2, Rimsky-Korsakov composed and published it under the title Eastern Song: The Nightingale and the Rose, when he was twenty-two. An acquaintance over on FB led me to this stunning performance of this brief song in a setting for soprano (Veronika Dzhieva), violin (Alenander Shonert) and piano (Natalia Shonert).
The Nightingale sang its fervent songVery freely adapted from several translations.
Wooing the rose the whole night long
But she didn’t listen to his song,
Though the lover sings of the pain
And grief of his love for her.
But even if she did listen to it
She doesn’t know who he is singing
Or why his song is such a sad one.
The word for November 17th is:
Nightingale /ˈnītnˌɡāl,ˈnīdiNGˌɡāl/: [noun]
A small European thrush with drab brownish plumage, noted for the rich melodious song of the male, heard especially at night in breeding season.
Old English nihtegala, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch nachtegaal and German Nachtigall, from the base of ‘night’ and a base meaning ‘sing’.