The earliest source of the song we know as Greensleeves was a broadside ballad by Richard Jones in 1580; several more versions appeared shortly, with variants of title and text. There are references to the song in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and, by the end of the 17th century, the song had developed many variants in melody, harmony, and meter in versions by William Cobbold, John Playford, and others. Of course, the popular version for Christmas is What Child is This with lyrics by William Dix written around 1865. Our version is based around the mid-17th century version, The old yeare now away is fled and variations by Playford and Cobbold. Here is a excerpt of the song from our CD Stella splenends: An Early Music Christmas:
There are modern versions/variations by performers as varied as Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen, Elvis Presley, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and…well, lots more.