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Greensleeves ... Whence the name?

10 Aug 98 - 04:11 AM (#34571)
Subject: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Zorro

A lot of years ago a folk singer/guitar teacher told me that Greensleeves got it's name from a wondering minstrel from somewhere in the UK. It seems that the women who worked in the fields at the time, wore long sleeved white blouses to protect their arms from the sun and that after working all day the sleeves would be green. He fell in love with one of these ladies and was rejected, thus he composed the song. I've played the song and told that story many times, until recently a young man said the name "Greensleeves" came from the wife of Henry the VIII (?) who had scars on her arms and frequently wore green blouses with long sleeves to hide them. The song, then was about her. I like my version better. It sounds more folksy.. but being a purist I'd like to know the origin. Anyone know??

10 Aug 98 - 03:15 PM (#34610)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Jerry Friedman

I'll bet a nickel that no one knows the answer for sure. There may have been no real Lady Greensleeves.

10 Aug 98 - 03:23 PM (#34612)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: BSeed

I read somewhere that "Greensleeves" was a kind of nickname given to London prostitutes who took their customers to the park and ended ub with grass stains on the elbows of their sleeves. I've heard this strongly disputed, as well, I must admit.--seed

12 Aug 98 - 04:58 PM (#34638)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Bo

Somehow "I must admit --seed"

is a dangerous way to end that last post :)


12 Aug 98 - 06:25 PM (#34664)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Susan of DT

I am not sure this is the origin, but...
In Tudor times, sleeves were not integral parts of women's dresses, but were tied on (easier to wash the sleeves alone, maybe) women could also change the look of an outfit by changing the sleeves. Perhaps the woman nicknamed "Lady Greensleeves" liked to where green sleeves with many of her dresses. Since it was fashionable to pay court to other men's wives, using a nickname could protect the not-so-innocent. Also, in terms of Henry VIII's wives and coverup sleeves, Anne Boleyn was reputed to have an extra finger.

12 Aug 98 - 07:00 PM (#34667)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: BSeed

Bo: You dinna read it quite right (reading all these Irish postings is getting to me). It was "admit.--seed"--not the same thing with the period. :(

11 Mar 02 - 04:16 PM (#667150)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,

I believe this song was composed by a mistral,in the time of Henry 8. The manor houses of that time had minstral galleys,used by companies of minstrals, in a school I went to had a minstral galley.I dont except the Anne Bolyen story,she wouldnt keep using the same blouse over and over again,I believe greensleeves was a member of the gentry possibly daughter of the squire ,she was well above the mintral in her station.

11 Mar 02 - 06:59 PM (#667285)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Mr Red

I asked a question about Greensleeves a year ago (+) try that for the bizarre & maybe a nugget.
the composer was my question - go look.

11 Mar 02 - 07:07 PM (#667294)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Liz the Squeak

Anne Bulleyn (or Boleyn as she became known) was a commoners' daughter, and as such, would have had to wear the same blouse frequently, especially in a time where even the rich only had a few. The average for the middle classes was 2 or 3.

Separate sleeves and slashed sleeves were a fashion item, because it showed off the fine linen shirt underneath. People were wearing and making gowns with sleeves set in as much as 800 years before Henry VIII. It was nothing to do with washing, as anyone who has ever washed socks will tell you - one always disappears.


11 Mar 02 - 07:11 PM (#667301)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

Green was certainly the traditional colour for amale minstrel/harpists robes in Tudor times...but they weren't ladies...i think.

12 Mar 02 - 09:22 AM (#667621)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,philippa

Bo, where did you go to school? I heard something similar. A teacher in secondary school told us the song was to a camp follower, one of the women following the soldiers. He didn't actually use the word "prostitute". Reading the lyrics here, the song seems to me to belong to the more romantic medieval "Court of Love" tradition in which knights pined for noble Ladies.

12 Mar 02 - 09:38 AM (#667629)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

I think you're all labouring under a misconception that the word refers to " green sleeves" That is just a recent mis-hearing. The song actually was written about "greens leaves",and was a sort of exhortatory lullaby type song encouraging children to eat up their cabbage. Well, that'd what my reacher used to say: so forget about the prostitute harpists. Next week's topic: The foggy foggy dew.

12 Mar 02 - 12:25 PM (#667710)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,leeneia

Well, I think that Greensleeves is a corruption of a title from a Gaelic language. "Slieve" means mountain, and the word is used in quite a few song titles.

To the person who thought it referred to the sleeves of women working in the fields: Don't you ever garden? When you work in a field, you wind up covered with dirt, not green stuff.

I read in an authoritative place, but I forget which, that Greensleeves appeared in the time of Elizabeth I and Shakespeare. So forget all those myths about Henry 8. Eliz had at least one Irish harper at her court, and maybe he brought the tune to England.

12 Mar 02 - 12:30 PM (#667715)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

And the roylties, as Flanders and Swan so aptly said, go to royalty.....

12 Mar 02 - 01:08 PM (#667726)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Don Firth

Actually, I don't think Anne Boleyn had to worry too much about her wardrobe. From

Anne spent part of her childhood at the court of the Archduchess Margaret. Fraser puts her age at 12-13, as that was the minimum age for a 'fille d'honneur'. It was from there that she was transferred to the household of Mary, Henry VIII's sister, who was married to Louis XII of France. Anne's sister Mary was already in 'the French Queen's' attendance. However, when Louis died, Mary Boleyn returned to England with Mary Tudor, while Anne remained in France to attend Claude, the new French queen. Anne remained in France for the next 6 or 7 years. Because of her position, it is possible that she was at the Field of Cloth of Gold, the famous meeting between Henry VIII and the French king, Francis I.

During her stay in France she learned to speak French fluently and developed a taste for French clothes, poetry and music.

Personally, I don't think anyone is going to come up with an authoritative answer for this one. But keep on looking. There may actually be an answer. Somewhere.

Don Firth

12 Mar 02 - 01:17 PM (#667729)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Don Firth says (among other things) of Greensleeves:--

A reading of the lyrics shows it is not a sweet, innocuous love song, but a plea from a 16th century gentleman to his bored mistress. .

That's what I've always thought. Someone once told me that green sleeves were the badge of a court "courtesan," but I have serious doubts about the truth of that.

Don Firth

12 Mar 02 - 02:08 PM (#667750)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: alanabit

The story I heard was that at the time, there was only one room in most houses. This meant that couples frequently went outside to make love. Originally the song was played faster and was more known as a bawdy ballad. I don't know the truth of this, but I rather like the story!

12 Mar 02 - 02:19 PM (#667757)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Mrrzy

Hmm - who was it defined hors de combat as Camp Followers?

12 Mar 02 - 02:50 PM (#667768)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Don Firth

A book called Fractured French. For example:-- coup de grace=lawnmower. Or carte blanche="Take Blanche home, she's drunk again."

Don Firth

12 Mar 02 - 07:02 PM (#667926)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Roughyed

I don't know about the words but the claim that the wastrel Henry V111 wrote the tune is nonsense. If I remember A L Lloyd he was of the opinion that the modern version of the song was an antiquiarian invention based to some degree on tne original. It's still a glorious tune though the words are crap.

12 Mar 02 - 07:45 PM (#667952)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Mudlark

I agree about the words...and so did Pete Seeger....I remember hearing him do a sort of hoe-down version...

12 Mar 02 - 07:46 PM (#667955)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Gloredhel

I reather like leeneia's suggestion about the origins of the tune. Everyone knows all the good stuff was really done by the Irish anyway!

12 Mar 02 - 09:51 PM (#668024)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Bob Bolton

G'day Gloredhel,

The story sounds great (folk etymolgies, by their very nature, always do)... but, in my old (single-volume) Oxford Companion to Music, Percy Scholes remarks that the tune we now call Greensleeves is a typical example of the kind of tune being brought into Britain, at that time, by the Italians music masters introducing the newfangled violin (displacing the British Crowd/Crydd/&c).


Bob Bolton

12 Mar 02 - 10:35 PM (#668045)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)

Greensleeves seems to be only one of a plethora of ballads (laments, what have you) about love, faithless love, etc., some of which which appear in "A Handful of Pleasant Delights, 1584, by Clement Robinson and divers others" (a 1924 transcription by Hyder E. Rollins and published by Harvard University Press, reprint Dover 1965).
Another is titled "A Proper Sonnet of an Unkind Damsel to her Faithful Lover," which seems to follow the same line.
Several are reproduced, including Greensleeves, at: Ballads
It seems that this kind of song was popular at the time. We try to attribute special meanings to "Greensleeves" but they end up being "Just So" stories.

12 Mar 02 - 11:04 PM (#668066)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: SeanM

From years of working renaissance faires, doing research, and most importantly being stuck... er... located next to an ocarina booth that only taught its' hawkers to play this one song (out of tune as only clay ocarinas can be)...

I'm firmly convinced that Greensleeves is in fact a corruption of the original Old English, "Graena Slaviis", or "Insane Bastards". This would fit, as the song is currently played at most renfaires the way it was meant to be - over and over again, poorly, and most importantly, off key.

Originally, this song was probably meant as the earliest form known of psychological warfare - played by a horde of drunken, deaf 'musicians', the hope would be that the opposing army would instantly drop their arms, covering their ears and running howling to the nearest tavern to get drunk. Unfortunately, what few historic references there are show that the effect was universal, and the song quickly spread like a virus as the now very drunk ex-soldiers tried to explain why they felt it necessary to drink so heavily.

My opinion, in any case.


12 Mar 02 - 11:29 PM (#668074)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)

SeanM, one point in favor of your view. In 1580 several printings appeared, and the authors (or publishers) quarreled over it and at least one parody was produced. It is likely that there were many more printings that were not preserved.
It certainly does get stuck in the mind. Was it, as you suggest, psychological warfare? Perhaps originated by a fiendish Spanish mind-twister and introduced to the English to addle their brains?
Good story, but there seemed to be a lot of other sonnets or whatever of similar vein at the time. Luckily, these aren't remembered. They may have been the 16th century equivalents of the mind-numbing Harlequin paperbacks of today.

13 Mar 02 - 10:19 AM (#668322)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Steve Parkes

I wonder if, in five or so hundred years, folkies and scholars of the day will discuss in all seriousness whether "She Loves You" was about young George VII (Prince Charles to you & me) and the Lady Camilla? It's perectly possible that Greensleeves is just a song, and nothing more.


13 Mar 02 - 12:23 PM (#668381)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Don Firth

Yup, Steve, that's my theory too.

Don Firth

13 Mar 02 - 12:50 PM (#668402)
Subject: Well, GreensRE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

Well Greensleeves was certainly around before those clever Italian violins came in , so you can forgot about the Bob Bolton theory. What is more intriguing is that the dance-tune version was commonly called "Kiss my arse" or, in some publications "Kiss my A--e". What is the origin of this strange phrase?

14 Mar 02 - 03:48 AM (#668868)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Steve Parkes

Greg, that subject really needs a thread to itself! It's an expression that crops up surprisingly often in literature in various guises, e.g. "kiss my royal Irish arse". Historically, it seems to have been an ejaculation or epithet expressing astonishment, contempt or amusement, rather than a literal invitation to perform the osculum infamum; although it's possible that the expression was originally "borrowed" from the withches' sabbath alleged practice of kissing the Devil's bottom.

These days it is heard less frequently, although in the UK sitcom The Royle Family, the character Jim often appends the words "my arse" to a word or phrase to indicate ridicule, as in "dance tune my arse!".


14 Mar 02 - 05:14 AM (#668890)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Steve Parkes

Talking of Henry VIII and Greensleeves ... he was the one who made midshipmen sew buttons on their sleeves to stop them wiping their noses! And they're still called "snotties" to this day, Im told.


14 Mar 02 - 07:29 AM (#668931)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Bob Bolton

G'day Greg Stephens,

Actually, that's Percy Scholes's theory ... not mine. I tend to regard Percy Scholes, in regard to strict music theory, much as I regard Brewer (of the ~ Dictionary of Phrase and Fable) in respect of linguistics!

(But I would be interested to see your detailed evidence of the tune before the introduction the Britain of the violin.)


Bob Bolton

14 Mar 02 - 07:41 AM (#668939)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,shonagh

Personally, i think she just wiped her nose on her sleeve one too many times!

14 Mar 02 - 09:17 AM (#668985)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

Bob Bolton: you're dead right to challenge me about which came first, Greensleeves or Italian music masters with their newfangled violins, as I'm sure it was a close run thing. For 100% sure,Greensleeves was widely popular in 1580, andit would only be speculation to try to guess how long it was around before then...though there is some evidence to place it back in HenryVIII's time(pre 1550). And the Italian new style fiddles were certainly being made by 1580, though not I think by 1550 . The word "violin" certainlyappears in English history from 1560 but as it was used indiscriminately for various different bowed instruments in those days we can't be sure it refers to the new Italian style instruments.So I admit I'm guessing, but I thinkin a reasonably informed fashion. Over to you, Bob. Can you place Italian music masters with modern violins in England pre 1580? Pre 1550? You made the assertion, you back it up. I'm always happy to be proved wrong (he said through gritted teeth)

14 Mar 02 - 03:42 PM (#669293)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

Greg where is Greensleeves mentioned before 1580? No one else has ever reported finding such. And where can I find a copy of the tune called "Kiss my arse"?

As I believe is mentioned in the history thread, "Greensleeves" is a harmonization of the cut time passamezzo antico and was known all over Europe and ends up being different almost every time it is noted down.

14 Mar 02 - 04:02 PM (#669310)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: oombanjo

Its true allthe early minstrals wore green. The problem was. its allways raining in England and allthe minstrals had the sniffles, hence greensleaves

14 Mar 02 - 06:20 PM (#669407)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Desdemona

Anne Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn (nee Bullen), grandson of a Geoffrey Bullen, Lord Mayor of London, originally of yeoman stock. He made a brilliant marriage to Elizabeth Howard, a daughter of the powerful Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Anne was raised at Hever castle in Kent.

Her father was an ambitious courtier, serving under Henry VIII & eventually being named Earl of Wiltshire(and Ormonde, through pressing a family claim to the title). Anne was sent as a young girl to serve as a lady-in-waiting at the French court--typical educational practice for young ladies of her station---where she apparently distinguished herself & returned to England a polished, elegant & sophisticated young woman. The sixth finger, or "some little show of nail", which is the only contemporary reference, may well be a myth, but she was a fashionable figure at court, and helped set new fashions at the English court because of her French influences.

Sleeves were generally separate from skirts and bodices well into the 18th century, when single piece dresses and gowns became more the norm. While Henry VIII is acknowledged to have been a talented singer & musician, even composing music ("Pastime With Good Company" is probably best known), the story that he wrote "Greensleeves" is almost certainly a myth, as it's generally considered by scholars to be of Elizabethan origin at the very earliest.

14 Mar 02 - 08:05 PM (#669456)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

To:GUEST who wanted pre 1580 greensleeves evidence and copy of Kiss my arse. I'm running out of time as I can't red threads much longer than this. If you are a member send me a PM.otherwise email me at and I'll oblige. As i think I said in my last effusion, 1580 is the hard evidence date, but there is a suggestion that points to an earlier date and i will pass it on to you,likewise "kiss my arse".

14 Mar 02 - 10:42 PM (#669536)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

I'll wait for it here. I suspect others might like to see it too.

15 Mar 02 - 03:07 AM (#669629)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: greg stephens

GUEST you didnt get my point. My ntl cabletv internet system doesnt let me access threads once they get about 40 messages long. I wont beable to get on by the time i've checked my references.

15 Mar 02 - 05:53 PM (#669848)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

Then star5t a new thread.

15 Mar 02 - 06:07 PM (#669851)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

I didnt say greensleeves was mentioned before 1580, i said there is some evidence to place it earlier,not very conclusive you can make up your own mind. I cant transmit music,except by post so send me your address by PM.Or come round, depending where you are.It is called "Kiss my arse" in various souces, fiddlers MSS and I think also dance tune publications as well, though I havent got a copy in front of me right now. Kind of busy with gigs now, I will return!

20 Mar 02 - 10:51 PM (#673090)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Genie

I kinda like leeneia's theory, too. Makes a lot of sense (though some of the others are quite amusing or titillating!).


21 Mar 02 - 09:53 AM (#673308)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Malcolm Douglas

Greensleeves persists in tradition as a Morris tune, usually in modal form.  Kick My Arse is one name under which it has been found; as such, Cecil Sharp noted it in Wyresdale, Lancashire.  Here is an .abc from  Richard Robinson's Tunebook:

T:Kick my arse
N:The tune for the Wyresdale "Old man's dance" collected by Cecil Sharp.
c2c cde | d2B G2B | c2A ABc | B2G E2B | \
c2c cde | d2B G2B | cBA BAG | A3 A3 :|
|:g2g gfe | d2B G2f | g2g gfe | a2f d2f | \
g2g gfe | d2B G2B | cBA BAG | A3 A3 :|

As to the possible existence of the tune prior to 1580, Claude M. Simpson (The British Broadside Ballad and Its Music, 1966) had this to say:

"...The Lord of Lorne and the False Steward, licensed on October 6, 1580, is to be sung to Greensleeves or Greensleeves and Pudding-pies in seventeenth-century issues, the earliest that have survived... Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time I, 228) suggests that the ballad and hence the tune may be older, quoting the Satyra Prima of Edward Guilpin's Skialetheia, or a Shadowe of Truth, 1598:

Yet, like th'olde Ballad of the Lord of Lorne,
Whose last line in King Harries days was born...
But though the ballad were familiar in the time of Henry VIII, we may not conclude that the tune Greensleeves is of equal antiquity, for we cannot be sure that The Lord of Lorne was originally sung to the tune.  What we do know is that editions of the second half of the seventeenth century call for the tune.  An earlier version in the Percy Folio MS is without tune direction."

As has already been mentioned, Greensleeves was the big hit of 1580, rapidly spawning a whole series of spin-offs; Shakespeare mentions it in two of his plays.  By the end of the 16th century, the term was "a metaphor for a handsomely dressed woman, or more usually a courtesan".  Musicians from a number of countries enjoyed brief vogues at the Elizabethan court; there is no evidence of any Irish connection in this case.  It is probably also unwise to try to read too much into what is not, after all, a very complex song.

The full text, and further information, can be seen in the  Greensleeves History of  thread.

21 Mar 02 - 02:40 PM (#673472)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,leeneia

I'm pleased to see that two percipient folk like my theory that it's a corruption of a Gaelic phrase including "slieve," (mountain). Right on!

Meanwhile, if you are getting sick of Greensleeves, find yourself the Playford dance tune "Daphne" and play that. It's similar to Greensleeves and well worth doing.

21 Mar 02 - 03:13 PM (#673499)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Penny S.

I was at college with a Bullen (theis has nothing to do with the music) who, as I recall, said that the family tradition was that the finger abnormality recurred.


This does have the touch of urban myth doesn't it. Truth to tell, I can't remember her exact words.

21 Mar 02 - 03:33 PM (#673510)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

A pleasant new ballad of Daphne.

When Daphne did from faire Phopebus flie
the West winde mist sweetly
Did blow in her face: Her silken Scarfe scarce shaddowed her eyes,
The God cried, O pitie, and held her in chace,
Stay Nimph, Stay Nimph, cries Apollo,
Tarry and turn thee, sweet Nimph stay,
Lion nor Tyger dothe thee follow;
Turne thy faire eyes and look this away,
O turn, O prettie sweet,
And let our red lips meet:
Pittie O Daphne, pittie O pittie me.
pittie O Daphne pitties me


She gaue no care unto his cry,
But still did neglect him the more he did mone,
He still did entreat, she still did denie,
And earnestly prayes him to leaue her alone.
Neuer neuer cryes Apollo,
Unlesse to loue thou do consent:
But still with my voice so hollow,
Ile crie to thee while life be spent,
But if thou turne to me,
I will praise thye felicitie
Pitty O Daphne, pittie O me,
pitty O Daphne, pitty me.

Away like Uenus Doue she flies,
The red blood her buskins did run all adowne,
He Plaintiffe loue she now denies
Crying, help help Diana and saue my renowne;
Wanton wanton lust is neare me.
Cold and chast Diana aid,
Let the earth a Virgin beare me:
Or deuoure me quick a maid:
Diana heard her pray,
And turned her to a Bay.
Pittie O Daphne, pittie, O pittie me,
pitty O Daphne, pittie me.

Amazed stood Apollo then,
When he beheld Daphne turn'd as she desired,
Accurst I am aboue Gods and men,
With griefe and laments my sences are tired.
Farwel false Daphne most unkinde,
My loue is buried in this graue,
Long haue I sought louv, yet loue could not finde,
Therefore this is my Epitaph
This tree doth Daphne couer,
That never pitied lover,
Farwell false Daphne that would not pittie me
though not my Loue, yet art thou my Tree.

T:B103- Daphne
DFE D2 d|F2GA2d|^c3/2d/2ed2A|cAFGEC|\

21 Mar 02 - 08:55 PM (#673728)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Art Thieme

Alas, the concept of an arsenal being a place where arses are stored---as opposed to putting them in a hollowed depression in the ground ---an arse hole----is not incompatable with the concept of a seminary being a sperm bank where semen is kept (for safe keeping). What that means to this discussion of the nice little tune called "Greensleeves" is as hard to say as, say, the origin of "John Henry". Still, we will belabor this until the cows come home slobbering their mucous even while we spew our music. Yes, we must spend our time on this mortal coil doing something, after all. So the green sleeves in question might just as well be used as they've always been used, as a place to wipe green putrid stuff wherever it's place of origin be---a leaking arse or a new crusty nostril. ----------- This, alone, is the true interpritation.

Art Thieme

22 Mar 02 - 03:16 AM (#673850)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Steve Parkes

"New crusty nostrils"--I've got all their records!

22 Mar 02 - 05:33 PM (#674320)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Mr Red

Paul Burgess, in answer to a question of Henry VIII's authorship, said "Song appeared later, there was a morris tune called "Greensleeves" known to exist when old Hank was on the throne". The morris tune is only "similar" he said (as is posted above).
That concurs with the 1585 publication.
Paul is a fine fiddler and FWIW I would expect him to know his violin history too.

just a thought but would a violin be the "cyrdd of the devil".
"& he danced, danced to the fiddlers tune.... (Stanton Drew in the county of Somerset)

Steve Parkes
were they in the "Sound of Muccus?" Who nose? Pre cylinder records eh?

22 Mar 02 - 05:58 PM (#674340)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Art Thieme

Play it on a knows floot.


23 Mar 02 - 06:44 AM (#674649)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Mr Red

not to be sniffed at.

23 Mar 02 - 07:13 AM (#674657)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: rich-joy

I'd heard that "Greensleeves" was Originally a Waits Carol ... how does this tie in with the Henry VIII timing ???
Cheers! R-J

23 Mar 02 - 11:20 AM (#674776)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Brían

I recall reading in the glossary of a book of Folk Songs of the Miramachi, John Bonyan was quoted as saying that the reference to green in a song often refers to the woman being unfaithful. If that is true, Greensleeves referring to a prostitute or a coutesan wouldn't be far from the truth.

I like the idea of Greensleeves being a corruption of Irish, but I frankly don't see anything to back it up. The tune Cúnnla, otherwise known as The Frieze Britches is supposed to be sung to a varation of Greensleeves, though I don't see the resemblance. There do, however seem to be a number of tunes going by that name.

Sliabh an Ghrian would be Mountain of the Sun, but that would be the opposite of Greensleeves


23 Mar 02 - 02:55 PM (#674920)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: ard mhacha

Shonagh could be right, when I was at primary school [many moons ago]one of the boys was nicnamed "Greensleeves". With a nose that was constantly running and hankys unheard of, he used his sleeves to good effect. Ard Mhacha.

23 Mar 02 - 03:06 PM (#674929)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

Without evidence that there was a Morris tune called "Greensleeves" in the reign of King Henry VIII, I take that to be just more hogwash.

19 Apr 02 - 03:57 AM (#693485)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

I should hope that we don't give this one to Henry VIII. Between creating a church, a condom company (well, kinda), and a place to get a nice divorce, the man doesn't deserve much more to his name.

19 Apr 02 - 05:11 AM (#693521)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Steve Parkes

He had good calves, though ...

19 Apr 02 - 09:37 PM (#694097)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Greensleeves 2

04 Dec 08 - 12:31 PM (#2507757)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,Keiei

Just for reference, for all of those who believe this has to do with Henry VIII, the style of song was not present in the British Isles for quite some time after his death, therefore, unless it was written by another person about that courtship, it cannot have anything to do with Henry VIII's courtship of Anne Boleyn. There may have been songs around before then which were similar to 'Greensleeves', but the actual style is Italian and did not arrive until approximately 100 years after his death, if I remember correctly.

05 Dec 08 - 12:37 PM (#2508753)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego

Now that we are all in agreement....

One of the standard explanations was that "camp followers" wore green sleeves or some sort of green cloth to identify them to both sides as non-combatants during battles - valuable commodities that they were.

I wonder if Oscar Brand would identify green sleeves as "what the Winnipeg Whore wore?".....sorry....

05 Dec 08 - 12:40 PM (#2508757)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: manitas_at_work

If you remember..!

05 Dec 08 - 03:22 PM (#2508905)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Folkiedave


I wipe my nose upon my sleeve
and that's why they call me "Greensleeves".

05 Dec 08 - 04:27 PM (#2508950)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Genie

Brian, you mentioned that "The tune Cúnnla, otherwise known as The Frieze Britches is supposed to be sung to a varation of Greensleeves ... "

I think one might trace the origin of "The Frieze Britches" back to those couples who (per Alanabit's story) thought, "Gee, I know it's January and all, but there's only one room in the house, so let's go out and do it in the yard."


12 Jul 09 - 09:52 AM (#2678169)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?

what do u know about greensleeves

18 Nov 11 - 07:51 AM (#3259271)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,Rochelle Vaughan

I have dreams or "visions" in which truths are gently communicated, that to my constant amazement are either verified or make perfect sense. In one case, quite randomly, without my inquiry, I was told that "Greensleeves" was, in its original form a ballad about the God of Love, at that time being worshiped as Jesus Christ and his relationship to the world he gave his life for. The world is "greensleeves" being obviously clothed in green, but also on a second level, green is a color associated with the status of the courtesan at that time, which is the theological reference to men as the subjects of God. It was commonplace, at that time, for religious ballads to be co-opted by secular minstrelsy and vice-versa.

18 Nov 11 - 09:38 AM (#3259340)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,leeneia

I don't believe any of that. Nobody has written anything about anybody's sleeves before or since. The name is probably a corruption of the gaelic 'sliebh' for mountain.

And no matter how many guys quote other guys about the song being Italian, it is not particularly Italian. It uses Am, G, C and E, the chords of the harmonic minor of the C scale, and they'd been around for centuries by the time Greensleeves was written.

Its format is simple. There's an A part which is mostly minor, and there's a B part. The B part starts out major and returns to the minor so you can play A again. Many, many tunes do this.

Why can't we just enjoy a beautiful, beautiful composition without bringing in whores, snot, specious mythology, etc?

18 Nov 11 - 10:22 AM (#3259355)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Kenny B (inactive)

The Real Story ... Greensleeves By Flanders and Swann


[A Monologue. MF talks, DS plays Greensleeves on the piano at a lazy tempo.]
There's another splendid tune from England's great heritage of musical rhubarb. Greensleeves, a song we all know and love. Donald knows it and he hates it.                           [The music stops]
Really very interesting how that tune, Greensleeves, came to be written.
I'd like to tell you about it. .... Are you all sitting comfortably?..... Then I'll begin.

1546, if you'll cast your minds back, was a very bad year for the theatre.
Gorboduc was doing poor business at The Globe;
Gammer Gurten was still giving everyone the needle *.
Apart from Noah's Flodde (On Ice), that's about all there was on.
Not even Salad Days in The Mouse Trap. ....... No, not even us.

Everybody's just seemed to stop writing.
And the Master of The King's Revels is getting terribly worried, because he has to have a new revel on in time for Candlemas, see, it's part of his job.
So, he sent for a playwright friend of his. And he said to him, "Look, Kyd." A-ah! That was his name: "Kyd." "Eh, how about your writing us another of your little Spanish Tragedies or something, I did so enjoy the last one."
Kyd said, "If it's all very well for you, standing there, smoking that potato, telling people to write plays, it's not as easy as all that.
All the best plots have been used already. Second volume of Hollinshed's ain't out yet. Any case, the public nowadays are only really interested in bear baiting and cock fighting. Morton's Fork! They don't give a fig for the live theatre." Very angry, young man, this 'Kyd.'

Well, the Master of the King's Revels sort-of calmed him down a bit, you know, as you do, stood him a butt of sack and so on. Said, "But, we really must try to think of something because this' going to be rather a special occasion:
We're nationalizing the monasteries." He said, "If they offer you one, don't take it 'cause if Bloody Mary gets in they'll be Denationalized." He said,
Um, matter of fact he said, "I have an idea for you," he said, "I know I'm only a civil servant, but you're most welcome to it. Why don't you... May I call you Doest Not Thou? May I? Thank you. Why doest not thou re-write Ralph Roister Doister? It is crying out to be done as a musical. Anything to stop it being done straight."
Kyd thought this was an absolutely wonderful idea; he rolled about on the floor like Donald when he's seen a joke. But by this time, of course, after all this sack, he was Titus Andronicus.

He staggered home... Well, he got to work on the books, straight away, got Skelton to work on the lyrics. John Skelton. Made a first-class job, too, right down to the very strong point numbers. Stephen Was a Worthy Peer, that was one of his, Nay, John, My Porridge is Too Hot, Cha-cha. Dozens more, very funny, very strong, lovely stuff.
But none of these songs seemed quite right to end the first half.
Now, if you're writing a musical, which I'm sure practically all of you are, that is the thing to watch out for, actually, what they call the first half closer.
They got to do Ralph Roister Doister in two halves; you're going to do Roister in the first half, Doister in the second half. Ralph in the interval.
And, uh, as, um, as Skelton said, and he was quite right, "For a first-half closer, you must have a hit. A palpable hit."
Well, they thought of having Sumer Is Icumen In. But this had got itself on the banned list; people had been singing "cuccu" rather too lewdly.
And he though, "Well, what next? There's always the Agincourt court songs," said Skelton, "but it's been done to death, hasn't it, I mean, having all those ghastly, old archers, I just can't face it," he said.
"They're just, uh, just not... Y'know, they're not writing songs like those any more these days." And Kyd said, "Well, leaf us not be too hasty," he said, "Leaf us not.
Somebody... Somebody maybe somewhere, .......this chap 'Anon' is writing some perfectly lovely... Nobody seems to know who his agent is." Well, they, um, they sat around in the old Bankside theatre, whence they had a short lease, getting more and more depressed, and shorter and shorter of money.

They pawned their doublets. ...Sitting around in their singlets. And those were Wolseys.
And suddenly, suddenly, there came the sound of a tucket without.
Pausing only to pull down his singlet and tuck it within, Kyd... Kyd rushed to the door, and a scroll was handed him by special messenger.
Kyd took the scroll, unrolled it. It rolled up again, it always did. Unrolled it again. At the bottom were several rows of very square, but highly illuminated notes. And at the top, it said, "Green - fleeves."
Kyd looked at this; he thought, "Well this is a pretty unlikely title. ...for a fong." He, um, he handed it over to Skelton, and sat back to listen while Skelton tried it over on the virginals.
[Greensleeves wafts lazily from piano, playing behind following monologue.]
And after listening for a while, Kyd said, therein he said, "Tis a passing-melodious roundolé. You know, I doubt me 'an it be commercial.
Who wrote this Greenfleeves thing, anyway?"
And a voice from the back of the auditorium shouted out, "We did!!!" [Music stops at end of verse.] Like that. Scared the living doublets and hose off 'em. And as they came forth, they could just make out a shadowy figure standing at the back there, and they said, "Who are you?" And the figure answered (and this is the part that's almost worth waiting for)... The figure answered, "We are Henry the Eighth, we are." Well, then, of course, they realized Greensleeves was exactly what they wanted.

They put it in the show, and under the title of Doxies Without Smocksies,† it ran for years. As you'd expect with royalty taking interest. Like horse racing and so on.
In fact, to this very day [Greensleeves resumes with chorus], in every period play you go to see, set in 1300 up to about 1715, I suppose, still for incidental music, Greensleeves is always played.
And the royalties go to royalty.

29 Nov 11 - 03:09 PM (#3265609)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,Chilli

Well having read the entire song and without knowing the "morals" of the time it always sounded to me like a man wooing a woman with valuable gifts including servants. Seemed to me that green was perhaps her favourite colour and had nothing to do with prostitution of any type.

The way the song was registered suggests that perhaps there was an "old" version. Certainly if the urban legend of Henry VIII being involved in the initial writing of it is correct I could see an argument for it being hidden away. Considering how the marraige to Anne ended he probably would not want to be reminded of the song and therefore would have discarded it. Anyone foolish enough to have played it probably would have had their reflective aparatise removed.

Here is another legend for you. Henry did not have Anne executed but instead executed a woman of similar appearance in her place. Sending Anne into exile with certain items one of which could have been the song it was not returned to England until years after Henry's death. Or it could have been written after the fact and the references to wooing the woman who did not love him are referring to the facts of his relationship with Anne. He would have kept it hidden until after his death as it would have made him appear weak. It may also have suggested that Anne was still alive for how else could she admit love before his death.

29 Nov 11 - 03:50 PM (#3265640)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,Songbob

You're all wrong. Eddie Greensleeves was the last to hold the title, and the tattered green sleeve, of a long line of champions of folksong. See Wikipedia "Eddie Greensleeves" if you don't believe me.

I saw him live, on my TV, on the Mike Wallace show, so I know whereof I speak.


21 Jan 12 - 12:35 PM (#3293957)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: GUEST,steve

I worked for a couple of years in a call centre in England where I encountered people with all manner of surnames. Among these surnames were Greenleaves and Gildersleeve. It seems likely therefore that Greensleeves was someone's surname, and my lady Greensleeves may have been a real person.

21 Jan 12 - 02:54 PM (#3294016)
Subject: RE: GREENSLEEVES ... Whence the name?
From: Stower

Oh dear oh dear oh dear ...

Lots of myths without any substance being rehashed here.

1. 'Greensleeves' has no Irish roots and is therefore not a mishearing of anything Irish.
2. It was not written by Henry VIII and has no relationship with any of his wives.
3. The earliest reference to 'Greensleeves' is a broadside ballad registered at the London Stationer's Company in 1580 (we can therefore be completely certain that it was not composed by King Henry VIII, who died in 1547), 'A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves', which reappeared in 'A Handful of Pleasant Delights', 1584, as 'A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves. To the new tune of Green sleeves.'
4. Our first three records of the written tune are close in date: 'Greenesleeues' in the William Ballet Lute Book, an English hand-written anthology in several hands, c.1595 and c.1610, now in Trinity College, Dublin; 'Green sleeves' in Matthew Holmes' hand-written cittern book, Dd.4.23, c.1595, now in Cambridge University Library; and 'Greene sleves Is al mij Joije' in Het Luitboek van Thysius, c.1595-1620, now in Bibliot heca Thysiana, Leiden, western Netherlands.
5. Greensleeves is an example of a passamezzo antico, an Italian minor key ground bass or common chord progression, upon which a composer would fashion a tune. The passamezzo antico began in Italy in the 1500s before spreading in popularity through Europe. This does NOT mean Greensleeves goes back before 1580 - the ground bass is the chord progression, NOT the tune (just like all blues have a common chord progression but different tunes).
6. No one knows why it is called 'Greensleeves'. There were various livery laws in Tudor England about who could wear what - fabrics, amount of material, colours - so the answer may be something about her social standing. Maybe it just means she's high-born? But you'll need someone who knows a lot more about that than I to comment further - and my guess is they'd still be guessing as to its meaning.