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The song is split into three sections interspersed between dialogue in Act II, scene 5 of As You Like It.
In the first section, Amiens, a courtier, sings:
Under the greenwood treeWho loves to lie with meAnd turn his merry noteUnto the sweet bird’s throat,Come hither, come hither, come hither.Here shall he seeNo enemyBut winter and rough weather.
Who doth ambition shunAnd loves to live i' th' sun,Seeking the food he eatsAnd pleased with what he gets,Come hither, come hither, come hither.Here shall he seeNo enemyBut winter and rough weather.
In this section, the group celebrates the joys of the pastoral life: in the forest, people do not pursue ambition, but instead appreciate life in nature and are satisfied with what food they can get. Unlike in the court, there are no enemies here.
The third section is composed by the sour Jaques, a lord who doesn't like the pastoral world, and goes as follows:
If it do come to passThat any man turn ass,Leaving his wealth and easeA stubborn will to please,Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame.Here shall he seeGross fools as he,An if he will come to me.
The verses of this song/poem are from Shakespeare's joyous and elegant play, As You Like It, Act II, Scene 5. They are sung by the characters of Amiens and Jacques and others in the forest. The focus of this song is upon the happiness and beauty of the pastoral life, in contrast to the treachery of the court. This song extols the pastoral; a man can sit under a greenwood tree and enjoy nature without any fear other than the cold of winter. If this man wishes to shun the "ambition" of the court, let him come and live in nature where he has only the weather to be concerned about:
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather. (2.5.5-7)
However, there is also a third verse which the satirical Jacques has written, and Amiens volunteers to sing it. This verse contradicts the first two by stating that if any man leaves the court for the forest and the pastoral life, and "turns ass" (fool) by giving up his "wealth and ease," he will find equally foolish men like himself there:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me. (2.5.45-47)
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