Malvina Reynolds: Song Lyrics and Poems  

The Emperor's Nightingale

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1961 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1989.

The emperor's nightingale sang in the forest,
And the emperor listened to hear his sweet song.
The bird was his treasure and sang for his pleasure,
And the emperor listened the whole evening long.

And the nightingale sang as his small heart dictated,
The song he created was gentle and true,
And all those who heard him were eased of their burden,
The king and the court and the woodcutter too.

Some big time promoters, they gathered together,
They said, "There's a fortune in that little soul.
Fiftieth and Broadway is our private roadway,
If we can get nightingale under control."

Then one of the crew said, "That bird is a phony.
He's little and bony, his feathers are gray.
We'll fix up a singer who'll be a humdinger
Electronic marvel who'll warble all day."

Another one said, "That's a dandy promotion,
A handier notion I seldom have heard.
We'll make one real classy, with platinum chassis,
Oh brother, won't we give His Kingship the bird!"

So they fixed up a chirp that was really a wonder,
With woofers and tweeters, transistors and those,
And the whole bit was rolled in a body all golden,
With emerald eyes that could open and close.

The king thanked them kindly, the court was enchanted,
They were instantly granted a million or more.
'Twas easy as nothing, you just pressed a button
And music came rolling on every floor.

But with kings and with courts you can never be certain.
They tired of the chirp's high fidelity song.
With no singer near him and no bird to cheer him,
The emperor's evenings were weary and long.

For the emperor's nightingale, he had departed.
He could not be found tho they looked ev'rywhere,
For the dear little fella was singing capella
On the very last tree left in Washington Square.

Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:
---- Little Boxes and Other Handmade Songs
---- The Malvina Reynolds Songbook

Other place(s) where the music to this song appears:
---- Jim Morse and Nancy Mathews: The Sierra Club Survival Songbook (San Francisco and New York: The Sierra Club, 1971)

Malvina Reynolds recording(s) on which this song is performed:
---- [none]

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This page copyright 2006 by Charles H. Smith and Nancy Schimmel. All rights reserved.

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