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Greensleeves


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Old Eng. tune twice mentioned by Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor and by other writers of this and later periods. It is first referred to in the Stationers' Co. Register in 1580, when it is called ‘a new Northern Dittye’, but there is evidence that it is of earlier date. There seem to be many ballads to the tune, also some examples of its conversion to sacred use, as, for instance (again in 1580), ‘Green Sleeves moralized to the Scripture’. During the Civil War of the 17th cent. ‘Greensleeves’ was a party tune, the Cavaliers setting many political ballads to it. From this period the tune is sometimes known as The Blacksmith, under which name Pepys alludes to it (23 Apr. 1660). The tune is sung by Mistress Ford in Act 3 of Vaughan Williams's opera Sir John in Love to the words printed in A Handefull of Pleasant Delites, 1584. An orch. fantasia from the opera is frequently played. The tune is also used by Holst in his St Paul's Suite for strs. and in his Suite No.2 for military band, and by Busoni in Turandot.

Subjects: Music.


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