Meaning of Greensleeves & The Story Behind

One of the most famous and oldest songs in the world of music is the English folk ballad Greensleeves . The composition has a story of more than four hundred years, and over the years it has not only not been forgotten, but is still very popular.

Many interesting legends and legends are associated with it, which we will talk about below.

The story behind and meaning of the Greensleeves song

It is impossible to determine the date of the birth of the Greensleeves song, but the day when she was issued a “birth certificate” is known. True, as is often the case in such cases, several people claimed “paternity”.

On September 3, 1580, the printer Richard Jones registered with the London Stationer’s Company the music and lyrics of a song he called A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves. On the same day, his rival Edward White released a song entitled A ballad, being the Ladie Greene Sleeves Answere to Donkyn his frende. Needless to say, it was about variations of the same composition.

Further is better. Subsequently, Jones and White published several more versions of Greensleeves. Each of them believed that the rights to the song belonged to him. In 1584, Richard Jones produced the final edition, A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves, which was included in the collection A Handful of Pleasant Delights. It was this version of Greensleeves that received the maximum distribution, was included in numerous publications and has successfully survived to this day.

The Greensleeves song story has been surprisingly successful. She was in great demand at the end of the Tudor era. Royalists sang political couplets to her tune during the English Civil War. British sailors of the late seventeenth century composed their songs to this melody. And in 1865, William Chatterton Dix wrote the Christmas carol What Child Is This?.

Currently, the Greensleeves song is often sung without lyrics. Moreover, few people know them, although this melody is known to almost everyone.

King Henry VIII and the Greensleeves song

Now a little about the possible author of this composition. A widespread legend is connected with the history of the Greensleeves song, according to which the composition was composed by the English king Henry VIII, who belonged to the Tudor dynasty. Allegedly, he dedicated it to his future wife, Anne Boleyn, who for a long time rejected the courtship of the monarch.

The version is beautiful, but unlikely. Musical theorists believe that the Greensleeves were composed during the time of Elizabeth I. The main argument is the fact that the song is clearly influenced by the Italian style that came to England after the death of Henry. Moreover, Greensleeves is not mentioned in the manuscripts of the reign of Henry VIII, although court historians carefully recorded everything that their king did.

What is the Greensleeves song about?

From the lyrics of the Greensleeves song, it clearly follows that it is performed on behalf of a man. He turns to the beloved who rejected him. The rest can only be guessed at. We have already discussed the version with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and will not return to it.

Of greatest interest is the question of who the “lady Greensleeves” was. It is unlikely that this is a real name. Rather, the protagonist “bestowed” the girl with such a nickname, indicating the color of her attire, which in that era could mean a lot.

They say that green sleeves were a distinctive feature of the wardrobe of prostitutes. Even the sleeves could turn green from the grass after making love in the fresh air (think of “Canterbury Tales”).

On the other hand, in heraldry, green means hope, and a knight in love could give a green scarf to the lady of the heart, making it clear that he was counting on reciprocal feelings.

In general, solid guesses and no facts.

Posts by Greensleeves

The Greensleeves song has been performed by many musicians working in different genres. Among them are Johnny Coltrane, Elvis Presley, Jeff Beck, Rainbow, Jethro Tull, Blackmore’s Night, Vladimir Vavilov and others.

Interesting Facts

  • The name of the song Greensleeves is mentioned twice in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (in the second and fifth acts).

Greensleeves lyrics

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

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight
Greensleeves was my heart of gold
And who but my Lady Greensleeves.

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.

I bought the kerchiefs to your head
That were wrought fine and gallantly
I kept them both at board and bed
Which cost my purse well favoredly.

Greensleeves, now farewell! Adieu!
God I pray to prosper thee;
For I am still your lover true
Come once again and love me.

Greensleeves lyrics

Alas, my love, you mistreated me,
Roughly rejecting me
‘Cause I loved you long and hard
Enjoying your company

Green sleeves were all my joy
Green sleeves were my charm
Green sleeves were my heart of gold
Who if not my green-sleeved lady

I’ve always been at your fingertips
To satisfy your every whim
I risked my life and home
For your love and favor

I bought scarves for you
Woven with grace and elegance
I paid for your shelter and food
What hit my wallet hard

Greensleeves, farewell! Goodbye!
May God help you
I still love you
One day come back and love me

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