Scarborough Fair

I am not quite sure what made me think of this song tonight but it has always been one of my favorites.   Here are the lyrics, the song, and a some possible history behind it. Since posting music here fits the impossible task theme of the song, I had to post you tube, a quiet video but good sound.

 

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
(a hill in the deep forest green)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
(tracing of sparrow on snow-crested brown)
Without no seams nor needle work,
(blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
(sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell her to find me an acre of land,
(on the side of a hill a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
(washes the grave with silvery tears)
Between the salt water and the sea strand,
(a soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
(sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather,
(war bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
(general order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather,
(and to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.

The song tells the tale of a young man, who tells the listener to ask his former lover to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished.

As the versions of the ballad known under the title “Scarborough Fair” are usually limited to the exchange of these impossible tasks, many suggestions concerning the plot have been proposed, including the hypothesis that it is a song about the Plague. In fact, “Scarborough Fair” appears to derive from an older (and now obscure) Scottish ballad, The Elfin Knight (Child Ballad #2), which has been traced to at least 1670 and may well be earlier. In this ballad, an elf threatens to abduct a young woman to be his lover unless she can perform an impossible task (“For thou must shape a sark to me / Without any cut or heme, quoth he”); she responds with a list of tasks that he must first perform (“I have an aiker of good ley-land / Which lyeth low by yon sea-strand”).

As the song spread, it was adapted, modified, and rewritten to the point that dozens of versions existed by the end of the 18th century, although only a few are typically sung nowadays. The references to “Scarborough Fair” and the refrain “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” date to nineteenth century versions, and the refrain may have been borrowed from the ballad Riddles Wisely Expounded, (Child Ballad #1), which has a similar plot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarborough_Fair

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2 thoughts on “Scarborough Fair

  1. Pingback: POEMS, POETS, RHYMES AND POETRY » Blog Archive » Scarborough Fair

  2. Pingback: wiki

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