Program Notes : Greensleeves
♫ Greensleeves sheet music :
Greensleeves lyrics :
Greensleeves program notes
The famous song Greensleeves (Alas, my love) is a 16th century English Renaissance love song.
Its composer remains unknown, and it appears in these early sources :
- As a broadside ballad entitled :A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves. London Stationer's Company (1580)
- As A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves. To the new tune of Green sleeves, in A Handful of Pleasant Delights (1584)
The Greensleeves melody 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 other manuscripts.
Greensleeves was a favorite in England in the days of Queen Elizabeth I, and Shakespeare mentions it in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor (ca 1602).
Legend has it that Greensleeves may have been composed by King Henry VIII (1491-1547) for his lover and future queen consort Anne Boleyn.
Anne, the youngest daughter of Thomas Boleyn, rejected Henry's advances, as told by the song :
Alas, my love, you do me wrong to cast me off discourteously...
However, it is unlikely that King Henry VIII composed Greensleeves, as the song is written in a style which was not known in England until after Henry VIII died.