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"My Lady Greensleeves" as depicted in an 1864 painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

"Greensleeves" is a traditional English folk song and tune, a ground of the form called a romanesca.

A broadside ballad by this name was registered at the London Stationer's Company in 1580[1] as "A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves". It then appears in the surviving A Handful of Pleasant Delights (1584) as "A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves. To the new tune of Green sleeves."

The tune is found in several late 16th century and early 17th century sources, such as Ballet's MS Lute Book and Het Luitboek van Thysius, as well as various manuscripts preserved in the Cambridge University libraries.

Contents

Greensleeves and Henry VIII

There is a persistent belief that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn. Boleyn allegedly rejected King Henry's attempts to seduce her and this rejection may be referred to in the song when the writer's love "cast me off discourteously". There is, however, no available evidence that King Henry did in fact compose "Greensleeves", which is probably Elizabethan in origin and based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after his death.[2]

Lyrical interpretation

One possible interpretation of the lyrics is that Lady Green Sleeves was a promiscuous young woman and perhaps a prostitute.[3] At the time, the word "green" had sexual connotations, most notably in the phrase "a green gown", a reference to the way that grass stains might be seen on a lady's dress if she had made love outside.[4]

An alternative explanation is that Lady Green Sleeves was, as a result of her attire, incorrectly assumed to be immoral. Her "discourteous" rejection of the singer's advances supports the contention that she is not.[4]

In Nevill Coghill's translation of The Canterbury Tales,[5] he explains that "green [for Chaucer’s age] was the colour of lightness in love. This is echoed in 'Greensleeves is my delight' and elsewhere."

Alternative lyrics

The hymn What Child Is This? by William Chatterton Dix, set to the "Greensleeves" tune, is used across the Western Christian Church.

A variation was used extensively in the 1962 movie How the West Was Won as the song "Home in the Meadow", lyrics by Sammy Cahn, performed by Debbie Reynolds.[6]

Early literary references

In Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, written around 1602, the character Mistress Ford refers twice without any explanation to the tune of "Greensleeves" and Falstaff later exclaims:

Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of 'Greensleeves'!

These allusions suggest that the song was already well known at that time.

In popular culture

Recordings

Television

Film

Media

"Greensleeves" is in Dorian mode, though modern musicians sometimes play it in the natural minor scale instead.

Problems listening to this file? See media help.
Problems listening to this file? See media help.

See also

  • "Turandot (Busoni)" Act 2 Scene 1 opens with the tune, which Busoni thought sounded Chinese.

References

  1. ^ Frank Kidson, English Folk-Song and Dance. READ BOOKS, 2008, p.26. ISBN 1443772895
  2. ^ Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and His Court, page 131, Ballantine Books, 2002, ISBN 0-34543-708-X
  3. ^ Brown, Meg Lota & Kari Boyd McBride. Women's Roles in the Renaissance, page 101, Greenwood Press, 2005, ISBN 0-31332-210-4
  4. ^ a b Vance Randolph "Unprintable" Ozark Folksongs and Folklore, Volume I, Folksongs and Music, page 47, University of Arkansas Press, 1992, ISBN 1-55728-231-5
  5. ^ Chaucer, Geoffrey (2003-02-04) (in Middle English). The Canterbury Tales. trans. Nevill Coghill. The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection. ISBN 0-140-42438-5.  
  6. ^ Soundtrack listing for How the West Was Won at the Internet Movie Database

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Greensleeves
There are many versions of the traditional lyrics of Greensleeves as a conventional lover's lament, often varying simply in the syllabic density.

Lyrics

The first printed version of the song:

Alas my love, ye do me wrong,
to cast me off discourteously:
And I have loved you oh so long
Delighting in thy companie.

Many versions use updated grammar, or a mix. Here is the same verse in a sparser version:

Alas, my love, you do me wrong
To cast me out discourteously,
For I have loved you for so long,
Delighting in your company.

The full lyrics, with updated grammar, are listed as follows.

Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously.
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your company.
Chorus:
Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady greensleeves.
Alas, my love, that you should own
A heart of wanton vanity,
So I must meditate alone
Upon your insincerity.
(Chorus)
Your vows you've broken, like my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart
But my heart remains in captivity.
(Chorus)
I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave,
I have both wagered life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.
(Chorus)
If you intend thus to disdain,
It does the more enrapture me,
And even so, I still remain
A lover in captivity.
(Chorus)
My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.
(Chorus)
Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
but still thou hadst it readily.
Thy music still to play and sing;
And yet thou wouldst not love me.
(Chorus)
Well, I will pray to God on high,
that thou my constancy mayst see,
And that yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me.
(Chorus)
Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu,
To God I pray to prosper thee,
For I am still thy lover true,
Come once again and love me.
(Chorus)

Renaissance Lyrics

Alas my loue, ye do me wrong,
to cast me off discurteously:
And I haue loued you so long
Delighting in your companie.
Chorus:
Greensleeues was all my ioy,
Greensleeues was my delight:
Greensleeues was my heart of gold,
And who but Ladie Greensleeues.
I haue been readie at your hand,
to grant what euer you would craue.
I haue both waged life and land,
your loue and good will for to haue.
(Chorus)
I bought three kerchers to thy head,
that were wrought fine and gallantly:
I kept thee both boord and bed,
Which cost my purse wel fauouredly.
(Chorus)
I bought thee peticotes of the best,
the cloth so fine as might be:
I gaue thee iewels for thy chest,
and all this cost I spent on thee.
(Chorus)
Thy smock of silk, both faire and white,
with gold embrodered gorgeously:
Thy peticote of Sendall right:
and thus I bought thee gladly.
(Chorus)
Thy smock of gold so crimson red,
with pearles bedecked sumptuously:
The like no other lasses had,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me,
(Chorus)
Thy purse and eke thy gay guilt kniues,
thy pincase gallant to the eie:
No better wore the Burgesse wiues,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
Thy crimson stockings all of silk,
with golde all wrought aboue the knee,
Thy pumps as white as was the milk,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
Thy gown was of the grossie green,
thy sleeues of Satten hanging by:
Which made thee be our haruest Queen,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
Thy garters fringed with the golde,
And siluer aglets hanging by,
Which made thee blithe for to beholde,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
My gayest gelding I thee gaue,
To ride where euer liked thee,
No Ladie euer was so braue,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
My men were clothed all in green,
And they did euer wait on thee:
Al this was gallant to be seen,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
They set thee vp, they took thee downe,
they serued thee with humilitie,
Thy foote might not once touch the ground,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
For euerie morning when thou rose,
I sent thee dainties orderly:
To cheare thy stomack from all woes,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
Thou couldst desire no earthly thing.
But stil thou hadst it readily:
Thy musicke still to play and sing,
And yet thou wouldst not loue me.
(Chorus)
And who did pay for all this geare,
that thou didst spend when pleased thee?
Euen I that am reiected here,
and thou disdainst to loue me.
(Chorus)
Wel, I wil pray to God on hie,
that thou my constancie maist see:
And that yet once before I die,
thou wilt vouchsafe to loue me.
(Chorus)
Greensleeues now farewel adue,
God I pray to prosper thee:
For I am stil thy louer true,
come once againe and loue me.
Chorus:
Greensleeues was all my joy,
Greensleeues was my delight:
Greensleeues was my heart of gold,
And who but Ladie Greensleeues.
Greensleeves, also used as What Child Is This? (help | file info or download)







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