GREENSLEEVES

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
GREENSLEEVES
“Greensleeves” is a traditional English folk song and tune, a ground of the form called a
romanesca”. Many surviving sets of lyrics were written to this tune. A widely-believed
(but completely unproven) legend is that it was composed by King Henry VIII for his
lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn. Anne, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn,
rejected Henry’s attempts to seduce her. This rejection is apparently referred to in the
song, when the writer’s love “cast me off discourteously.” However, it is most unlikely
that King Henry VIII wrote it, as the song is written in a style which was not known in
England until after Henry VIII died.
It is widely thought that Lady Green Sleeves was at the very least a promiscuous young
woman and perhaps a prostitute. At this time, the word “green” also 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. 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 quite clearly makes
the point that she is not.
Alas my love you do me wrong
To cast me out discourteously
When I have loved you so so long
Delighting in your company
Your gown was of the grassy green
Your sleeves of satin were hanging by
Which made you be a harvest queen
Yet you would not love me
Green sleeves was my all my joy
Green sleeves was my delight
Green sleeves was my heart of gold
And who but my lady green sleeves
Alas my love you do me wrong
To cast me out discourteously
When I have loved you so so long
Delighting in your company