♫ Scarborough Fair ♫ (Redux)

I had a different Simon & Garfunkel post in mind for tonight, but suddenly exhaustion has hit and I simply don’t have the energy to do more tonight, so I dug around and found this one that I played nearly three years ago … I’ll get to the other one soon … I promise … and no, I’m not giving clues as to what it might be!


In the last week or so, daughter Chris who is a lover of all things British, discovered a new television show to love called “Rosemary & Thyme”.  It’s fairly interesting, actually, about two middle-aged British women playing detective and solving murders every week.  I jokingly refer to the title of the show as “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme”, ala the song Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel.  And as payback for my humour, I have had this song looping through my head for two days now, so in a ritual of exorcism, I am sharing it here with you!

Scarborough is a small town on the coast of England. The “Scarborough Fair” was a popular gathering in Medieval times, attracting traders and entertainers from all over the country. The fair lasted 45 days and started every August 15th. In the 1600s, mineral waters were found in Scarborough and it became a resort town. Today, Scarborough is a quiet town with a rich history.

In Medieval England, this became a popular folk song as Bards would sing it when they traveled from town to town. The author of the song is unknown, and many different versions exist. The traditional version has many more lyrics.  Paul Simon learned about this song when he was on tour in England, where he heard a version by a popular folk singer named Martin Carthy. When Carthy heard Simon & Garfunkel’s rendition, he accused Simon of stealing his arrangement. Carthy and Simon did not speak until 2000, when Simon asked Carthy to perform this with him at a show in London. Carthy put his differences aside and did the show.

The lyrics are about a man trying to attain his true love. In Medieval times, the herbs mentioned in the song represented virtues that were important to the lyrics. Parsley was comfort, sage was strength, rosemary was love, and thyme was courage.

Scarborough Fair
Simon & Garfunkel

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

Have her make me a cambric shirt
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without no seam nor fine needle work
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to weave it in a sycamore wood lane
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
And gather it all with a basket of flowers
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Have her wash it in yonder dry well
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
where water ne’er sprung nor drop of rain fell
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Have her find me an acre of land
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Between the sea foam and over the sand
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Plow the land with the horn of a lamb
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Then sow some seeds from north of the dam
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

If she tells me she can’t, I’ll reply
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Let me know that at least she will try
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Love imposes impossible tasks
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Though not more than any heart asks
And I must know she’s a true love of mine

Dear, when thou has finished thy task
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Come to me, my hand for to ask
For thou then art a true love of mine

Songwriters: Arthur Garfunkel / Paul Simon
Scarborough Fair lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

41 thoughts on “♫ Scarborough Fair ♫ (Redux)

  1. I cannot get the version you chose to play, that stupid not licensed to play in Canada thing. But the version I know, from the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album is both simpler yet more complex that the version to which your lyrics belong. Does yours have Garfunkel singing a completely different song in counterpoint? Here is the studio version, complete with both sets of lyrics. Please let me know if your version is the same as the one I know? https://youtu.be/-BakWVXHSug

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  2. I knew the song, but not the title. When I read the headline, I immediately thought of Great Britain. Apart from my blog visits in the virtual UK, our public broadcasters here in Germany have been broadcasting almost exclusively documentaries about the UK, for a good two years. I’m slowly becoming a virtual British without honestly getting along with the language. Lol Anyway a great song! Thanks Jill!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Dream Team in action. I love their work. I had the pleasure of seeing Martin Carthy perform this track somewhere around the late 60’s. He’s a folk legend and was with Steeleye Span and The Albion Band as well as a solo performer.
    Cwtch

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    • I saw Carthy in his Steeleye days, late 1971 I think, not long before he left them. Still have fond memories of the gig. He was also in the Imagined Village, a band that blended English folk with Asian sounds. Their version of this, led by a sitar, is a little different!

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  4. I’ve loved S&G since the beginning and had all their albums, including this one, which my parents gave me as a Christmas present. We played it on Christmas Day and the final track rather ruined the festivities! Martin Carthy recorded this the year before them, and though his voice is much rougher his arrangement was very similar! And at least he pronounced ‘Scarbera’ properly 😉

    I wondered why this version was twice as long as the original: simple, add a bit of flute then play it again 😂

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    • Oh my … I would fail the test for the pronunciation of Scarborough or most anything else there! Scarbera, huh? I must practice!!!

      I didn’t realize, until your comment, that this version was longer than the original. Next time, I’ll know better (if I can remember that long!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the American habit of emphasising the final syllable, in this case the ‘oh’ sound. For us, the emphasis is on the first syllable. Same language, done differently!

        I don’t actually think this is a longer version of the song, it is just the same song played twice with a flute link. I’m happy to stand corrected if anyone can tell me there’s a version like this on an S&G record, as I don’t know of one.

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      • Sounds like the great Canadian sound problem: from anywhere else, you pronounce Toronto as it looks, Tore-on-toe, but if you come from Toronto, you pronounce it Traw-na, to rhyme with bwana. Torontonians–Trawna’ans–lord it over you if you mispronounce the mispronunciation. “Don’t you know, Trawna is the centre of the universe? If you ain’t from Trawna, you ain’t worth a pile of shit!” Which tells us non-Torontonians that Trawna people are pieces of shit! (All in good fun!)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I had no idea that was how Torontonians pronounced the name of their city! Sounds almost like a case of lazy tongue, skip over that last ‘T’. Rather like “Mississippi” here … I’ve heard many people skip a syllable, calling it Missippi.

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  5. Beautiful song! S&G are masters of their craft. Like Chris, i’m also a fan of all things British. If she likes British mysteries, there’s a contemporary reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, produced as a TV series by the BBC. It’s very entertaining, the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock. 🙂
    Watch on Netflix or google online for free episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

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