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The Folk Song Greensleeves - Its Origins and History

Alun's musical interests are many and varied, with the emphasis on traditional folk, world music, and melodies which stand the test of time

N.B: all my articles are best read on desktops and laptops


This page relates the history of one of the most famous melodies in the world of music, and one of the most ancient too - it is a melody with links to Tudor England, a melody which has heartfelt melancholic lyrics of love, a melody of many and varied interpretations in the fields of folk and classical music, and a melody which is so evocative of the English countryside.

It is a song and a tune which has existed for more than 400 years, and it will surely exist for another 400 years.

And the title of this perennially popular piece of music - Greensleeves - also provides me with my username on this page.


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. In 1528, Henry wrote to Anne:

'having been for more than a year now struck by the dart of love, and being uncertain either of failure or of finding a place in your heart and affection'

Many of the verses of Greensleeves imply a rich and extravagant courtship:

'I bought thee petticoats of the best,The cloth so fine as it might be;I gave thee jewels for thy chest'

So the idea of a royal composer for this song does have some credibility. And undoubtedly Henry VIII was a composer and musician of some merit who played the lute, organ, and virginals. But having said that, obsequious flattery did cause court officials to 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. Not only is the song not recorded in manuscripts from Henry's reign, but also the melody is deemed to have a style which betrays an Italian influence which only reached England after his death.

The following YouTube video uploaded by Luthval allows us to hear a variation of the song Greensleeves which is certainly not the familiar melody we know today, but it is a version from the Dutch Thysius manuscript mentioned opposite, and it is performed on the traditional lute - so this is probably the original sound intended for the song.

Origins of the Tudor Song

The first known references to a ballad called Greensleeves date to the month of September in the year 1580. They are clear references, but nonetheless a confusing attribution of the song's composition. There were no less than four registrations of the ballad made that month, including two on the same day, the 3rd September.

The printer Richard Jones registered at the London Stationer's Company the melody and lyrics of a song he described as 'A new Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves'. Almost simultaneously, rival printer Edward White published 'A ballad, being the Ladie Greene Sleeves Answere to Donkyn his frende'. And then on 15th September there was another version published, and Edward White released yet another on the 18th. Needless to say the rights to the song were in very hot dispute. Richard Jones published again on 14th December. Two more versions followed in 1581. 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', and included in a collection of songs called 'A Handful of Pleasant Delights'.

It was not long before the song was appearing in a variety of publications including William Ballet's Lute Book, and 'Het Luitboek van Thysius', a 1595 compilation of music written by Adriaen Smout of the Netherlands. Other manuscripts which contain the song are to be found in the libraries at Cambridge University.

And by 1602, it was sufficiently widely known to be incorporated into one of William Shakespeare's plays. In 'The Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff implores 'Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves! The character Mistress Ford also twice makes reference to the tune.

Traditional Lute Variation On A Theme

A History of the Song Greensleeves Since 1603

Since the end of the Tudor dynasty in 1603, this most famous of all Tudor songs has gone from strength to strength. What's more, the tune has undergone many more variations and the lyrics have been adapted to suit different purposes. During the 17th century English Civil War, Royalist supporters adopted the melody and added political lyrics. On April 23, 1660 the great diarist Samuel Pepys wrote of sailors singing a song called 'The Blacksmith' to the same tune. And as early as 1686, this melody - arguably the most popular piece of music throughout the 17th century - had been applied to a Christmas hymn. The Christmas theme led to more variations in the next century and culminated in the popular carol 'What Child is This?' written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865 to the tune of Greensleeves. Even the conventional Tudor song of spurned love has had lyrics both added and amended in multiple versions throughout the ages.

Then in the 20th century, the great folk song was treated to a classical makeover by English composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams. In 1934 he arranged his 'Fantasia on Greensleeves' in which another old folk tune 'Lovely Joan' was incorporated into the central section of a melody which begins and ends with Greensleeves. The Fantasia is possibly the best known rendition of the tune today, and this version is presented in the video recording by Crystal.Erin below.

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Today, the lyrics are performed only occasionally, but the melody is as familiar as ever. Everybody knows Greensleeves, whether they know it from folk festivals or from classical concerts, from film and TV scores, or from advertisements. Among my very first memories of the tune were the musical jingles of an ice cream van. Greensleeves has been known to 20 generations. It has been played, interpreted with new lyrics, arranged in different styles and played again for over 400 years.

The Vaughan Williams Classical Fantasia

My Username on this Web Site - Greensleeves Hubs

Anyone who has read any of my pages may wonder about my username. Why 'Greensleeves Hubs'? Well, the 'Hubs' part is obvious - I write on a website called HubPages. As for 'Greensleeves' there are several reasons:

  1. Since my very early childhood, the song Greensleeves has been a favourite piece of music. For much of my life it has been Number One.
  2. The phrase has a pleasant ring to it. It has a meaning. It trips off the tongue and it is memorable. It's not aggressive, but hopefully it doesn't come across as effeminate either (even though the original lyrics did concern a Lady Greensleeves!)
  3. The melody and lyrics relate to my interests and my sentiments. The love of traditional folk music, of which Greensleeves is a prime example, is important. Then there is the love of history - and there is no more historic piece of music. I also have a love of countryside and nature, and Greensleeves has a very tranquil, pastoral air to it). Finally, the song lyrics are richly evocative with poignant words of unrequited love - and that is also a sentiment to which I can relate.

alasenlamente's video recording below allows us to hear those lyrics. Sadly they are out of sync with the images, shot in a Japanese garden with Japanese subtitles! (But that is not her fault oft he uploader.) Unexpectedly it stars Olivia Newton John singing the old folk classic - but her voice is beautiful and suits it very well.

Who was 'Greensleeves?' What does the Phrase Mean?

The song lyrics concern a 'Lady Greensleeves', but why would anyone be named for their 'green sleeves?' During the Tudor era, the sleeves of ladies' gowns and dresses were not always a part of the main clothing, but were attached with lace. Hence a gown may well have green sleeves, even if the rest of the garment was quite different. And the sleeve colour may be significant.

Interpretations assigned to the word 'Greensleeves' usually have a sexual connotation. It's been suggested that green was symbolic of promiscuity, and that 'Lady' Greensleeves may have been a prostitute (the 'green sleeves' may even refer to grassy stains due to a habit of making love outdoors!) However, the 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. But another explanation is quite the opposite to promiscuity - in 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.

Greensleeves Lyrics Sung By Olivia Newton John

The Chorus

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady greensleeves.

The Verses

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


Alas, my love, that you should own
A heart of wanton vanity,
So must I meditate alone
Upon your insincerity.


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.


If you intend thus to disdain,
It does the more enrapture me,
And even so, I still remain
A lover in captivity.


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.


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.


I bought thee kerchiefs for thy head,
That were wrought fine and gallantly;
I kept thee at both board and bed,
Which cost my purse well-favoredly.


I bought thee petticoats of the best,
The cloth so fine as it might be;
I gave thee jewels for thy chest,
And all this cost I spent on thee.


Thy smock of silk, both fair and white,
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of sendal right,
And these I bought thee gladly.


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.


They set thee up, they took thee down,
They served thee with humility;
Thy foot might not once touch the ground,
And yet thou wouldst not love me.


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.


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.


The following video recording is by Rarm Chaiyaburin. It features the great flautist Adrian Brett playing one of my favourite interpretations of the piece on another traditional folk instrument. I truly hope you enjoy listening to the four very different recordings on this page.

The Original Tudor Lyrics and their Original Spelling

The Chorus

Greensleeues was all my ioy,
Greensleeues was my delight:
Greensleeues was my hart of gold,
And who but Ladie Greensleeues.

The Verses

Alas my loue, ye do me wrong,
to cast me off discurteously:
And I haue loued you so long
Delighting in your companie.

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.

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,

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.

Thy smock of silk, both faire and white,
with gold embrodered gorgeously:
Thy peticote of Sendall right:
and thus I bought thee gladly.

Thy girdle of gold so red,
with pearles bedecked sumptuously:
The like no other lasses had,
and yet thou wouldst not loue me,

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Greensleeues now farewel adue,
God I pray to prosper thee:
For I am stil thy louer true,
come once againe and loue me.

Adrian Brett Plays Greensleeves On The Flute

In Conclusion - A Song to Last Forever

These days it seems we are dominated by popular culture - the here and now. The youth of today seem driven by convention and peer pressure to enjoy only the kind of music being churned out at the current time. Perhaps it has been that way for as long as radio music stations and music records have existed, because the emphasis of the popular media is always on current releases. Thus for so many young people today (2012) the songs of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber are much better known than the songs of Lennon and McCartney. For people of another generation, the songs of the 80s are the best ever written. For others just a few years older, it's the songs of the 60s or 70s. It is all nonsense of course. The great majority of today's biggest hits will scarcely be known in a few years time, and nor will many of the celebrity stars who sing them. A few compositions and the talented musicians who create them will survive in the public consciousness for decades, and a tiny minority will have the staying power to remain familiar to almost everyone for a hundred years or more.

The truest test of musical greatness is when a piece of music transcends temporary popular culture and becomes a part of every generation's culture. The piece of music known as 'Greensleeves' has survived for 400 years and is as familiar today as it has ever been. There is no reason to believe it will not be around in another 400 years time. And that makes it one of the great musical compositions of all time.


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Webpage Dividers

  • Homesteadbound
    The yellow musical notes section dividers which have been used here are reproduced and very slightly modified from an idea by my fellow HubPage member 'homesteadbound'. My thanks for the use of these dividers.

© 2012 Greensleeves Hubs

I'd Love to Hear Your Comments. Thanks, Alun

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on April 26, 2018:

Deborah Minter; My apologies for not replying to your comment sooner than this, but thanks very much for reading this article. Cheers, Alun

Deborah Minter from U.S, California on June 29, 2017:

Thank you for the article! Greensleeves and What child is this ...are two of my favorite songs.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on April 24, 2017:

Louise Powles; Thanks very much Louise. It must I think be one of the very oldest of all songs which are still familiar to people in the 21st century, and certainly it is one of the most recorded songs in history. Alun

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on April 24, 2017:

I like this song, but I didn't realise it had so much history to it. It's been enlightening and interesting reading your hub. =)

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on July 03, 2016:

Boomer Music Man; Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. Certainly it's hard to think of any other popular song with such a long and varied history. Cheers, Alun

Boomer Music Man on July 02, 2016:

This song has history written all over it and it has gone through several generations. A great song and a well written hub.

Boomer Music Man on June 28, 2016:

Didn't know this song has such a wealthy history. I only know the Christmas carol, but always felt the melody was beautiful.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 22, 2016:

Alun, you're welcome. It makes sense on how you put it that way.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on January 22, 2016:

Kristen Howe; Thanks Kristen. It's true that songs can affect people in this way, particularly if they are associated with an event in the past. I trust the memories are not sad, even though you think of the song as sad? The tune may be described as having a melancholic feel to it, though I prefer to think of it as peaceful and relaxing. The words though are undoubtedly sad. Nothing much sadder than unrequited love. Cheers.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 20, 2016:

Alun, I haven't heard this song in a long time. I used to have a recording of it years ago. It brings back memories since it's a sad song during the holidays. Thanks for sharing.

Robert Sacchi on November 22, 2015:

You're welcome, Love is Blue was a big hit when it came out.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on November 22, 2015:

Robert Sacchi; Thank you very much Robert. I LOVE 'Love is Blue'! I hadn't heard it for a very long time so I just watched a YouTube video of the original French language version 'L'amour est bleu', sung by Vicky Leandros in 1967, and I instantly fell back in love with the song (and her). I can understand what you mean. There is some similarity in the melodic form. Alun

Robert Sacchi on November 21, 2015:

A verr interesting article . The circa 1970 song Love is Blue has a smilar melody to Greensleves, doesn't it?

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on May 07, 2015:

fairPhyllis; Haha! The ice cream company was called Mr Whippy! And I enclose a link to a rather scratchy recording of its Greensleeves jingle, which I found on YouTube. One of my earliest memories was of running along a street in the town of Reading, England with my brother and sister, chasing an ice cream van with this jingle!

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on May 07, 2015:

Ellanor; First my apologies for not replying to your well-considered comment earlier. Your analysis of the original lyrics is indeed both illuminating and perceptive. Certainly the composer of these lyrics seems very aggrieved at his treatment by 'Lady Greensleeves', and yet retains a heartfelt desire that one day she will return in kind his love and devotion. Cynically, maybe his main grievance comes from the money he has bestowed (wasted) on her, but speaking as someone who has experienced unrequited love, I must admit to a feeling of sympathy for this composer of music who lived so long ago, and who perhaps merely wished for the love of his life to return his love.

fairPhyllis on May 06, 2015:





Ellanor on March 02, 2015:

Ummm... Looking at the original Tudor lyrics this song is more likely an erotic or defamatory/demeaning poem.

"Thy peticote of Sendall right"

"Thy girdle of gold so red"

"Thy crimson stockings all of silk,

with golde all wrought aboue the knee"

Anybody else seeing it? Mentions of undergarments and the fact he can see above the knee... Quite improper of the time and either suggests she is not rejecting his sexual advances or, at the very least, an erotic male fantasy.

It's certainly not very polite. In fact his advances may have been rejected simply due to his crude nature.

"Thy pumps as white as was the milk" This line is crude enough to make any noble woman faint. By the 17 century the word "pumps" became common slang for female genitalia and likely had been in use long before that. That's right. He could just be talking about her nether region.

And then this;

"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."

He's likely quite upset and angry with her rejection. He's spent so much money on her already, given her a horse, jewels and clothing. He feels led on by her. Accepting his gifts but refusing his advances like he isn't worthy of her love.

However the first two verses suggest he has known the girl for a long time and possibly shared much together. He has likely doted on her for years. Perhaps they were close friends or she was his mistress or even an unfaithful spouse.

"For I am stil thy louer true"

This suggests some kind of lover. His wife or his mistress.

"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."

Possibly being flirtatious?

I suppose in short he is saying "I love you, I've showered you with gifts, we shared something special [And possibly "I've seen your undergarments"] and yet you cannot find in your heart to love me? Why am I not worthy of your love? None other can love you like I can. I pray to god you will one day tell me you love me."

And then finally he leaves with.

"Goodbye Greensleeves. I do hope god takes care of you. Remember me and our time together and I hope [And possibly "believe"] you will come back to me and our love."

While it may be a tale of unrequited love in its time it would have been quite rude. Possibly even originating from the crude words of a drunk bard who had just had his advances rejected by the flirty barmaid.

And anyone aware of the drinking culture within England and Scotland can clearly see this happening.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on October 24, 2014:

Fiddleman; Thanks very much Robert. So glad you like it. The tune can be played to great effect on so many instruments - including the fiddle :-)

Fiddleman on October 24, 2014:

Wonderful hub on a great tune. Thanks for the history and the videos are super.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on August 08, 2014:

Mickji; Thank you Mickji. I wonder is it the 16th century lute music manuscripts you refer to? If so, I can certainly look for more information about these. Meanwhile I see you are also interested in the ocarina; I am sure 'Greensleeves' would be an appealing tune to play on the ocarina, much as it is suited to other woodwind instruments.

Folkskammer; Thanks for your contribution. I have listened to your German language version of 'Greensleeves'. Very interesting, and true to the traditional sound. Alun

Mickji from between Italy and Switzerland, travelling around the world thanks to a little special object on August 06, 2014:

Greensleeves always fashinated me as it does with many many other people. I really thank you for your Hub. Can you please write more about the sheet music that you mentioned earlier ?

Folkskammer on July 06, 2014:

See the german version from Lady Greensleeves of my channel by youtube. Greeting from Germany

Debra Pursglove on May 16, 2014:

Thank you for looking into the Greensleeves version I remember from childhood (I'm 52 by the way, so this would have been the 1970s). Much appreciated. My email address is, in case you chance upon any information at any point. Your Hub pages are very interesting :-)

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on April 30, 2014:

D Pursglove; Thank you for your contribution. I googled the text of your version of Greensleeves and it brought up an Internet Archive site, and the text of a book called 'A New Library of Poetry and Song, Volume 2' Sadly the page is an exceedingly long list of lines from songs, and I could not find an easy way of locating your verses, but you may be able to find it here. It certainly sounds like an old version, but I suspect that many variations on the lyrics have been published over the past four centuries.

dpursglove on April 08, 2014:

Hi. I just added a post on words I remember to the Greensleeves tune from childhood. Please substitute 'casement' for 'basement'! Thanks.

D Pursglove on April 08, 2014:

Does anyone know this version, I learned it at school, but can find no reference to it on the net:

A fairer morning there ne're could be and a fairer maiden you ne're could see

She won my heart when she smiled at me

To the tune of the merry may morning.

Come open your basement wide

For the young may morning is calling you.

Come open your basement wide

To the tune of the merry may morning

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on February 19, 2014:

bujar; Thank you bujar! That is a delightful comment. I agree with you about this enchanting tune. And so nice to hear from someone in Albania! I wish you well. Alun.

M Scott; it is a shame in a way that we do not know exactly what was in the mind of the composer, but I guess it's all part of the enticing mystery of an ancient piece of music.

bujar ibro on February 19, 2014:

Greensleeves Hubs! Thank you very very much for insights!It is a very magical melodies of love within her pain.This tune has enchanted as much as you.I'm from Albania and this tune be never moved from the mind.Thank you very much!

M. Scott on December 12, 2013:

I do remember in my youth, some 60 years ago, an explanation that getting green sleeves was the male version of getting a green gown. This obviously based on the differences in position. If one assumes that this is a bawdy ballad about a rakes obsession ... Well not as pretty a picture, but not so out of date with its time.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on November 20, 2013:

Thanks James. No one is less adept at playing music than me! But if I could play an instrument, this would be one of the first melodies I would learn.

I guess any song which is more than 400 years old is sure to have a lot of interesting history behind it and 'Greensleeves' is certainly no exception. It made it an enjoyable exercise researching and writing this page. I appreciate your visit. Alun.

jmartin1344 from Royal Oak, Michigan on November 20, 2013:

I'm really glad I found this hub Greensleeves! This is one of my favorite melodies of all time and one of the few I was able to learn and play to some extent on the piano (I love music but was unfortunately not adept at performing it!)...

I've never dug this deep into the history of it though so this was fascinating. I feel that it is a great representation of England itself, as you mentioned, and therefore I think a deep look into it's history and meaning is justified! Thanks!

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on June 05, 2013:

Thanks Rachael; I really like the Olivia Newton John rendition too, though a key reason for including it was simply to ensure I had at least one video with clear lyrics for readers to listen to, rather than purely instrumental versions of the tune. I think the words add a deep poignancy to a beautiful tune. (Though of course, it was originally intended for the lyrics to be sung by a man!!)

Appreciate your comments. Alun.

Rachael Lefler from Illinois on June 05, 2013:

Thanks for posting so much information and good videos! Greensleeves is also a favorite song of mine. I rather liked the Olivia Newton John version you posted here, that I didn't even know she did. :)

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on May 08, 2013:

Thanks epigramman. I know Loreena McKennitt's very distinctive music, though have not heard her rendition of this particular song. I shall have to listen! I'm not over keen on jazz, but it's always interesting to hear different interpretations of a piece of music, so thanks for suggesting that too. Alun.

epigramman on May 07, 2013:

There's a nice version of Greensleeves if you like jazz by John Coltrane and Loreena McKennitt is faithful with a version as well. lake erie time ontario canada 10:15pm and now the stars are over the sky

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on May 07, 2013:

And good morning (or evening by the time I send this) to you epigramman, and the lovely part of the world you inhabit! I suspect that day break over the lake can be a beautiful sight!

I am flattered that you speak so highly of this page. As this is the hub which reveals the reasons behind my HubPage username, it is a subject matter which means a lot to me and which I always intended writing about from the day I first joined the site. It was indeed something of a labour of love because one of the nice things about Hubpages is to have the chance to introduce one's passions to others.' Greensleeves' has always been with me as a part of my life, and always will be.

My thanks for your good wishes - they are reciprocated. Alun.

epigramman on May 07, 2013:

Good morning from lake erie time ontario canada Alun at 6:34am and this is one of my favorite hub presentations of all time because this is one of my favorite melodies of all time and you certainly have presented it as a true labor of love in every sense of the word. Hubbravo from the epi-man and you have so many other wonderful hubs to choose from so I will be back but I have just arrived home from night shift and will go to bed soon after watching the daybreak over the lake

Sending you warm wishes and good energy from Colin and his cats

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on May 05, 2013:

Glenn; Many thanks for a lovely comment and compliment. And so glad that one of the videos gave you the opportunity to sing along to the melody! I find the lyrics enchanting even though they are quite sad in the expression of unrequited love. There is a grace to Old English phraseology and it would be nice to hear the lyrics of Greensleeves sung more often today, rather than just the instrumental version of the song. Alun

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on May 04, 2013:

This was a very delightful article for me to read. Greensleeves has always been one of my favorites. You have done wonderful research on this. And the videos you selected added a very nice touch. I even had some enjoyment of singing the lyrics that you included while playing the video of Adrian Brett playing the Greensleeves melody on the flute.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on April 10, 2013:

anon; I wish I could answer your question. Greensleeves has been used in so many shows over the years as it is so familiar. Also possibly because it is not copyrightable. I'm not sure which series you are thinking of - perhaps someone else can help with an answer?

anon on April 08, 2013:

In what 80's TV series was Greensleeves used?

I thought Dick Turpin - but Youtube told me it wasn't !

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on February 01, 2013:

busillis22; I guess what one gets out of a site like Hubpages depends in part on what one is looking for. Financial rewards are minimal for most! For me it's just the pleasure of having a place where I can enjoy creative and informative writing without the hassle of creating my own website (plus the hope that I'll gain the experience and confidence to one day write something more substantial elsewhere).

I don't use the forums and Q & A sections sufficiently (due to lack of time) but these can be very rewarding for the advice which is given by HubPage staff and experienced writers as well as the encouragement and emotional support which many warm-hearted HubPage members offer.

Early days can be disheartening with slow traffic to the hubs, but if you participate in the community aspects of the site, and if you write well or with passion, then traffic will hopefully soon flow both within HubPages and from the search engines. It's a great feeling when your hubs receive increasing numbers of visits or appreciative comments! Alun.

Kyson Parks from San Diego, CA on February 01, 2013:

Greensleeves Hubs: Thank you very much! I am looking forward to it! Any tips?

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on February 01, 2013:

busillis22; many thanks for your visit and your comment - I believe there can be very few songs with quite such a long history of development as 'Greensleeves'.

I note you have only recently joined Hubpages. May I take this opportunity to wish you well here and hope that you find writing on this site an enjoyable experience.

Kyson Parks from San Diego, CA on February 01, 2013:

Thanks so much for this! I've wondered about the history of this song for a long time!

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on January 14, 2013:

Thanks starstream! I appreciate your visit and gratified that you think it would be suitable for magazine publication. Greensleeves is a great piece of music isn't it? Alun.

Dreamer at heart from Northern California on January 14, 2013:

You have researched and written a lovely article here on one of my favorite tunes. I hope it will someday appear in a magazine article for many to enjoy. Thanks!

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on November 20, 2012:

Thank you Tony for this visit and comment.

When researching, I found that several websites also refer to Henry VIII as the composer, but the more authoritative sites make clear that this is unlikely (as does the reference in 1580 to the song as a ' New Dittye'). I guess we may never know for certain, unless someone finds a manuscript with the date or author of its composition included, but as I suggest in another comment here, it seems at least plausible that the song might have been written about Henry's courtship of Anne, even if it was written at a later date by someone else.

Thanks so much for the votes. Appreciated. Alun.

Tony Mead from Yorkshire on November 19, 2012:


a well balanced and interesting look at this song. I have actually seen in song books this song attributed to HenryVIII, so the myth is quite strong and persistent.

I'm sure most school children have sung, played on recorders, or hummed this tune at some time. It was a favourite of BBC schools programmes in the 50's along with so many other wonderful English ditties about the green wood and wandering down lanes in the merry month of may tra-la.

voted up and buttons.



Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on October 22, 2012:


thanks so much for such a generous comment on this hub - on a subject which you'll appreciate means a lot to me as I chose the song title to be my username. And thank you for recommending my page.

Certainly It doesn't seem like Olivia Newton John's typical style of music, but I think Greensleeves does suit her voice, and she sings the words with great clarity. I did want one video with lucid expression of the lyrics for readers of the hub to listen to.

Once again my thanks for your compliments. Alun.

whowas on October 22, 2012:

Greensleeves, what a fabulous and beautiful analysis and history of this most enduring of all folk songs! I thoroughly enjoyed it and think it a very fine read indeed that I will recommend to others.

I was also rather surprised by the slightly surreal appearance of Olivia Newton John in this hub but in the end quite enjoyed her performance.

Thanks again. All the best to you! :)

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on August 27, 2012:

alancaster; thanks for commenting - I'll take your word for all of that! Too many political shenanigans in that era for my liking - too many people changing sides and jumping into bed with people they shouldn't have. A bit like a bloodthirsty soap opera.

As a history buff, you may be interested in three of the pages I've looked at since reading Derdriu's comment about Jane Shore:

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 27, 2012:

All I know about Edward IV is that he wasn't the man he was thought to be, and that he didn't marry the woman he was meant to.


Let's do this is easy stages, 1) Edward was named after the man everyone at the time knew wasn't his father, and that the English archer who was his father wasn't heard of again after his birth. His mother had a dalliance, (Edward was 6' 4", the Duke of York and his sons were something like 5' 10") and the boy's christening was a low-key affair compared with the pomp and celebration of Richard's christening; 2) Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick had arranged the marriage of Edward to a French princess and was understandably 'miffed' when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville instead. He went over to the Lancastrian side and was defeated and killed at the Battle of Barnet, 14th april, 1471. As well as Richard Nevill, Edward's half-brother George, Duke of Clarence went over to the Lancastrians and was 'dealt with' by his brother Richard Duke of Gloucester. Edward made a number of peculiar enemies in marrying Elizabeth of York, nee Woodville, who later married Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Whoever Jane Shore was, must have come before her in Edward's affections.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on August 27, 2012:

History between William the Conqueror and the Tudors is not my forte Derdriu, and the name of Jane Shore hasn't featured in any documentaries I've seen, which is where most of my basic history knowledge comes from.

So many interesting characters in history aren't there - so many hubs awaiting to be written! Alun.

Derdriu on August 27, 2012:

Alun, Wow, that's unexpected! She's the most famous mistress of Edward IV and his pals. She supposedly was a bit reluctant but finally gave in since her suitors were her king and his closest buddies. Richard III had her walk through the streets bare-chested and bare-footed in atonement of marriages made unhappy. That's the last trace of her. No one knows what happened to history's most famous goldsmith's wife.

Respectfully, Derdriu

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on August 27, 2012:

Derdriu; now you've given me something to research! - I'll have to find out about Jane Shore now, because she's not a character from history that I'm familiar with.

Thanks for visiting and commenting on this my username signature hub!

Derdriu on August 27, 2012:

Alun, The time is wrong, but it's the sort of thing that Edward IV and his pals may have composed to Jane Shore in the transition period between her jewelry coming only from her goldsmith husband and trickling in from elsewhere (until Richard III ended it all).


Respectfully, and with many thanks for sharing, Derdriu

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on August 24, 2012:

Thanks hugely Cogerson. I've been intending to write about this song which gave me my username for some time now, so it was enjoyable writing the hub.

Incidentally I wonder how many films it appears in? I know the tune (with different lyrics) forms part of the score of 'How the West was Won', and apparently also features in an Elvis Presley film 'Stay Away Joe', but I'm sure it must appear in some guise or other in lots of others - particularly English historical dramas. Alun.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on August 24, 2012:

I have to admit that I knew very little about this subject.....but now I do based on this excellent hub. You have done a fantastic job of research....thanks for sharing this are the man Alun. Voted up and awesome.

Greensleeves Hubs (author) from Essex, UK on August 14, 2012:

Oops. I'm not THAT bad at history alancaster - just bad at Roman numerals. No sooner mentioned than amended on the page! Will we ever have a Henry XIII I wonder? I've heard that story about Henry's injury - I guess we'll never know for sure if it contributed to a personality disorder, but perhaps it would explain a lot!

Although it appears unlikely that Henry VIII wrote the melody of Greensleeves, I guess it's just possible that the lyrics were written with his courtship of Anne Boleyn still fresh in the mind. They certainly seem to fit the story.

Many thanks for your visit and comment alancaster and for noting that in the Roman world (as well as the English world) X is very different to V :-) Alun.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 14, 2012:

Often enough I've attributed 'Greensleeves' to Henry (didn't know we had as many as thirteen, but we live and learn, don't we) VIII, but after this I'll change my tune. I thought I'd give the old b*****d the benefit of the doubt, but i've been liberated. I'm FREE!

(Hrrumph!) Sorry, mustn't get carried away. As it happens, owd 'Enry was a 'dab hand' with the culture bit; apparently the change in his personality was due to a fall from his horse during jousting, according to a 'Yesterday' (Channel 12 on Freeview) programme titled 'Museum Secrets' on Friday evenings. He had a head injury that no-one could diagnose.

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