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The nightingale...A maiden fair to see - No. 3, Madrigal and No.3a, Ballad
from Act I of the English opera H.M.S. Pinafore by Arthur Sullivan
Libretto: W.S. Gilbert

Role: Ralph Rackstraw, a sailor on the Pinafore, in love with Josephine
Voice Part: tenor       Fach: lyric tenor
Setting: quarterdeck of the H.M.S. Pinafore, anchored off Portsmouth, England, late 1800's
Synopsis: Ralph is in love with the Captain's daughter. He realizes, though, that he will never be able to have her because her social class is much higher than his. He describes her good qualities eloquently and then continues by declaring the reasons why he will never be able to have her.
Range: Tessitura:
G3 - A4A3 - G4
Translations/Aria Texts:
Libretto entered by Gilbert and Sullivan Archive (added 2000-07-24)
The nightingale...A maiden fair, Ralph's aria from HMS Pinafore

The Nightingale
Sighed for the moon's bright ray
And told his tale
In his own melodious way!
He sang "Ah, well-a-day!"

The lowly vale
For the mountain vainly sighed,
To his humble wail
The echoing hills replied.
They sang "Ah, well-a-day!"

I know the value of a kindly chorus,
But choruses yield little consolation
When we have pain and sorrow too before us!
I love -- and love, alas, above my station!

A maiden fair to see,
The pearl of minstrelsy,
A bud of blushing beauty;
For whom proud nobles sigh,
And with each other vie
To do her menial's duty.

A suitor, lowly born,
With hopeless passion torn,
And poor beyond denying,
Has dared for her to pine
At whose exalted shrine
A world of wealth is sighing.

Unlearned he in aught
Save that which love has taught
(For love had been his tutor);
Oh, pity, pity me--
Our captain's daughter she,
And I that lowly suitor!
MIDI version by Hank Fordham. Notes: second part only
MIDI version by Hank Fordham. Notes: first part only
Sheet Music/Scores:
The Ultimate Tenor Aria Album (Version 2.0). Published by CD Sheet Music. Available at and
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