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There is a 17th century English dance/tune named "All in a Garden Green" (first published in John Playford's The English Dancing Master in 1651).

What is the most probable exact meaning of the title? "Everyone is in a green garden" or "everything in a garden is green"?

I'm Russian and our local English country dance amateurs translate it in both ways.

The page http://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:All_in_a_Garden_Green has two lines from a ballad that may be related to the tune (All in a garden green two lovers sat at ease, / As they could scare be seen among, among the leafy trees), but the meaning of the phrase is still unclear to me.

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  • And "All in the golden afternoon ..." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_in_the_golden_afternoon...
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 28, 2018 at 12:12
  • @WS2 Thanks, your explanation seems to be the correct one. If you post it as a separate answer I'll mark it as accepted. Mar 29, 2018 at 9:57
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    I would offer an alternative explanation of "green". It's not unlikely that "green" could have been used in the sense of a "clearing" -- an open space. What may be implied is a sitting area in the center of a flower garden or some such.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 29, 2018 at 20:50

3 Answers 3

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This is a good question.

It is a familiar opening poetic line, as in "All on a summer's evening...", or "All on a winter's night/rainy day/...".

It means that all the subsequent things occur "on a summer's evening", a "rainy day" etc. It is a device for setting the mood and context to something.

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I have a theory. The dance has you advancing with a leg thrust forward, and you want the step to be made as the single syllable "green" is sung. You want to match dance movements to syllables, and if "garden" were put at the end, there would a tendency to bend your knee on "-den" syllable. But then you'd fall forward. Awkward. Also, the assonance is better with the same vowel at the ends of the phrases: "green" and "ease" (then "seen", "leaf-" and "trees").

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As WS2 says, 'all' is just a poetic way of indicating that the events about to be described happened at the stated place or time. I'm sure the tune belongs to the ballad you quote; it just means 'In a green garden...'

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