SCARBOROUGH FAIR

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • SCARBOROUGH FAIR
    “Scarborough Fair” is a traditional English fair, and is also a traditional English ballad.
    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.
    In “Scarborough Fair” the herbs may be a veiled message for the girl where the man is
    explaining why she should come back to him (if she overcomes the five impossible
    tasks). Parsley, used to this day as a digestive aid, was said to take away the bitterness,
    and medieval doctors took this in a spiritual sense as well. Sage has been known to
    symbolize strength for thousands of years. Rosemary represents faithfulness, love and
    remembrance, and the custom of a bride wearing twigs of rosemary in her hair is still
    practiced in England and several other European countries today. Thyme symbolizes
    courage, and during the medieval era, knights would often wear images of thyme on their
    shields when they went to combat. The speaker in the song, by mentioning these four
    herbs, wishes his true love mildness to soothe the bitterness that is between them,
    strength to stand firm in the time of their being apart from each other, faithfulness to stay
    with him during this period of loneliness and, paradoxically, courage to fulfill her
    impossible tasks and to come back to him by the time she can.
    Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
    Remember me to one who lives there.
    For once she was a true love of mine.
    Tell her to make me a cambric shirt.
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
    Without any seam or fine needlework,
    and then she’ll be a true love of mine.
    Tell her to wash it in yonder dry well,
    parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
  • where water never have sprung, nor drop of rail fell,
    and then she’ll be a true love of mine.
    Oh, will you find me an arce of land,
    parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
    between the sea foam and the sea sand
    or never be a true love of mine.
    Oh, will you plough it with a lamb’s horn,
    parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
    and sow it all over with one peppercorn,
    or never be a true love of mine.
    And when you have done and finished your work,
    parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
    then come to me for your cambric shirt,
    and you shall be a true love of mine