Music Monday: Greensleeves 1580

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Lady Greensleeves Dante Rossetti Image One
My Lady Greensleeves 1863
Artist: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Harvard Art Musems
Model: Mrs. W. J. Knewstub
Photographer: Maris Stella
Reverse Image
Image Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Moving forward to 1580…

Henry VIII

A widespread belief exists that the song Greensleeves was composed by none other than King Henry VIII following an early rejection of his love by his future wife Anne Boleyn. The lyrics of this song of unrequited love have been seen to relate to his courtship of Anne in the 1520s. Many of the verses of Greensleeves imply a rich and extravagant courtship […]. Henry VIII was a composer and musician of some merit […]. [C]ourt officials […] attribute to Henry many compositions which were not his and the consensus of expert opinion, today, is that Greensleeves was composed rather later in the Tudor era, during the reign of Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. [T]he piece is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after Henry’s death […].

Origins

A broadside ballad […] was registered at the London Stationer’s Company in September [of] 1580, by [a] Richard Jones, as A Newe Northern Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves. Six more ballads followed in less than a year, one on the same day […]. Needless to say the rights to the song were in very hot dispute. It was in 1584 that Jones printed his final version of the melody and this is the one we know today. It was titled A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves […].

Lady Greensleeves Dante Rossetti Image Two
My Lady Greensleeves 1859
Image Credit: Rossetti Archive

Who was Lady Greensleeves

[W]hy would anyone be named for their green sleeves? Interpretations […] usually have a sexual connotation, most notably in the phrase “a green gown”, a reference to the grass stains on a woman’s dress from engaging in sexual intercourse outdoors. Was this lady a prostitute? [T]he song lyrics mention a “discourteous” rejection of the singer’s advances, suggesting to some that the lady in question was actually virtuous but, perhaps, was mistaken for a prostitute as a result of her green sleeves. [A]nother explanation is quite the opposite to promiscuity […]. [I]n heraldry, colour also had symbolisms and green indicated truth and fidelity […]. [A] knight may give a green armband to his true love to wear to show his devotion to her, giving rise to the familiar phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” meaning, to show your true feelings.

None of these theories, however, really seem to reflect the song’s true meaning, which clearly expresses an unrequited love by a rich man for a fair lady. All that we can confidently deduce, is that “Lady Greensleeves” is a nickname, not a title. Exactly who she was, remains a mystery.

Trivia Bits:
♦ In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, the character Mistress Ford refers, twice, to “the tune of ‘Greensleeves'”.
♦ The tune was the basis for “Home in the Meadow,” a recurring song throughout the 1962 epic film How the West Was Won.
♦ A rendering of the tune, titled the “Lassie Theme”, was used extensively in the Lassie television show, especially the ending credits.

Everyone will remember this tune as What Child Is This? ~Vic

Sources & Additional Reading:
The Folk Song Greensleeves (Greensleeves Hubs)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti Archive)
Lyrics (Six Wives Website)
Greensleeves (Wikipedia)

Amy Nuttall

19 thoughts on “Music Monday: Greensleeves 1580

    cindy knoke said:
    April 28, 2020 at 1:26 AM

    As a kid with no musical talent, I listened to it so much, that I could play it. It is that wonderful.

    Like

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      April 28, 2020 at 2:17 AM

      It is lovely. I had heard of “Greensleeves” but, didn’t realize it was the “What Child Is This?” that I grew up with.

      Like

    bayphotosbydonna said:
    April 28, 2020 at 8:41 AM

    A beautiful song, one of two favorites I taught myself to play on the piano as a teen, the other being “The Entertainer”. 😊

    Like

    bereavedandbeingasingleparent said:
    April 28, 2020 at 7:05 PM

    It’s odd. The number of rock bands I’ve seen play this live.

    Like

    Angelilie said:
    May 1, 2020 at 2:45 PM

    I really like your blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. See you soon.

    Like

    badfinger20 said:
    May 1, 2020 at 3:05 PM

    ” usually have a sexual connotation” It seems that if a song doesn’t…its not good lol. All You Need Is Love has Greensleeves in it at the end.

    Like

    wandasanderspoems said:
    May 9, 2020 at 6:23 PM

    I love this song. I play it in Am7 on guitar.

    Like

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      May 9, 2020 at 7:54 PM

      You’re a musician? Cool. Am7?

      Liked by 1 person

        wandasanderspoems said:
        May 9, 2020 at 8:07 PM

        Yes somewhat, I only learned guitar to accompany songs and tunes in my head. I have a YouTube channel- same name.

        Like

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          May 11, 2020 at 1:19 AM

          I had to look Am7 up. I’d never heard that before.

          I always wanted to be a musician but, I’m too old, now. I do sing, tho…

          You have a pretty voice.

          Like

            wandasanderspoems said:
            May 11, 2020 at 1:31 AM

            Thanks. There is nothing to it. All you have to do is get a guitar and a song book at a music store of simple chord patterns. There are thousands of songs played it 3 chords. Oh i think some songs are free online too. After you get use to chording , your strum will come naturally. Later progress to fingerpicking which is my favourite. When ypu grip the guitar holding it press the chords with the very tips of your fingers to get a clear sound. Cheers. Look through easy songs.

            Like

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              May 11, 2020 at 1:38 AM

              I have an old acoustic guitar in my bedroom. The strings are all rusted and I don’t have the money to have it re-strung.

              I could read music and play a flute when I was 10.

              Like

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