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photo by Ruth1066 on Fkickr (Click image)

photo by Ruth1066 on Flickr (Click image)

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Alas, my love, you do me wrong,

To cast me off discourteously.

For I have loved you well and long,

Delighting in your company.

Chorus:

Greensleeves was all my joy

Greensleeves was my delight,

Greensleeves was my heart of gold,

And who but my lady greensleeves.

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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

If you intend thus to disdain,

It does the more enrapture me,

And even so, I still remain

A lover in captivity.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus:

Greensleeves was all my joy

Greensleeves was my delight,

Greensleeves was my heart of gold,

And who but my lady greensleeves.

Most people thinking about Greensleeeves from a Tudor point of view imagine it played on a lute – a round-backed string instrument which was popular from the early renaissance, up until about 1800.

Image from little Miss sunnydale on Flickr (Click image)

Taken from Little_miss_sunnydales Flickr photostream (Click image)

The golden age of the lute was during the 16th and 17th centuries, during which time notated music became the custom – rather than the fashion for improvisation which had gone before.

John Dowland (1563–1626) is probably the most famous lutenist of the era. He is most famous today for his melancholy songs ‘Flow my tears’, ‘I saw my lady weep’ and ‘In darkness let me dwell’. Karl Schumann writes,

The art of playing the lute … was a refined, soft, and at the same time colorful art, in sharp contrast to the agitated times in which it was practised’.

Greensleeves too is a song of yearning and heart-break. No-one knows who wrote it. Some say Henry VIII penned the verse and tune for Anne Boleyn. Whatever its origin it has achieved lasting popularity.

(For more about the history and background of this song click here)

PS – regarding the forthcoming David Starkey TV series about Henry VIII entitled  ‘Henry, Mind of a Tyrant’. Philip Sheppard who composed the theme music dropped us an email to say that the dates for the TV show have been announced.

He also mentioned that the soundtrack will be freely available on his blog from next week & there is a preview available now

Take a look (& a listen) here – the preview sounds absolutely superb!

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