Green Sleeves

Click this icon to hear Green Sleeves if it does not automatically play.
<bgsound src="greensleeves.mid">

   The song, Green Sleeves, is a very old one. It is believed to have been written about 1580. That is the year that an entry was included in the Stationers' Register in which Richard Jones was licensed to print a poem titled, A New Northern Dittye Of The Lady Green-Sleeves.

   According to Plantagenet Somerset Fry, in his book, The Kings & Queens Of England & Scotland, Henry VIII was an accomplished musician. As a youth, Henry learned to play several musical instruments, including the harp, the virginal, and the organ. He also is known to have composed songs. Therefore, the legend arose that it was King Henry VIII, who wrote the song as a love-sonnet for his second wife, Anne Boleyn. The legend, unfortunately, cannot be substantiated.

   In 1584 a set of lyrics for the song appeared in the book, A Handful Of Pleasant Delights. The song started out with four verses and a chorus. They included:

Alas, my love you do me wrong, To cast me off discourteously,
And I have loved you so 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.
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.
I bought the kerchers to thy head, That were wrought fine and gallantly,
I kept thee both at board and bed, Which cost my purse well favouredly.
Greensleeves, now farewell! adieu! God I pray to prosper thee;
For I am still thy lover true, Come once again and love me.

   The music for the song did not appear in printed form until the year 1652.

   The song survived over the years, being loved by the Americans and British alike during the American Revolutionary War period.

   William Chatterton Dix wrote a new set of lyrics to the music during the 1860s. His lyrics became the song we know today as What Child Is This.

   Additional verses that have been written for the song over the years include the following:

A petty coat of sendel white, With gold embroidered gorgeously;
A petty coat of silk and white, And these I bought they gladly.
If you intend thus to disdain, It does the more enrapture me.
And even so, I still remain, A lover in captivity.
My men were clothed all in green, And they did ever wait on thee.
All this was gallant to be seen, And yet though wouldst not love me.
Thou could desire no earthly thing, But still thou hast it readily.
Thy music still to play and sing, 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.
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.

   There are a number of websites devoted to the song, Green Sleeves. For more midi files of this single song, visit:


   Note: The midi file that is linked to this page was sequenced by The Kitchen Musician, whose website is located at: