Monday, 24 October 2011

Scarborough Fair

From Wikipedia:

"Scarborough Fair" is a traditional ballad of the United Kingdom.

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. The lyrics of "Scarborough Fair" appear to have something in common with an obscure Scottish ballad, The Elfin Knight (Child Ballad #2),[1] which has been traced at least as far back as 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").

The melody is very typical of the middle English period.

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 the traditional English fair, "Scarborough Fair" and the refrain "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" date to 19th century versions, and the refrain may have been borrowed from the ballad Riddles Wisely Expounded, (Child Ballad #1), which has a similar plot.


Here is a version:



Another Version:



Lyrics:

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 him/her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Without a seam or needle work,
Then she'll be a true love of mine.


Tell him/her to wash it in yonder dry well
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Where water ne'er sprang, nor drop of rain fell
Then she'll be a true love of mine.


Tell him/her to dry it on yonder grey thorn
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Which ne'er bore blossom since Adam was born
Then she'll be a true love of mine.


Tell him/her to find me an acre of land
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the salt water and the sea strand
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 the north of the dam
Then she'll be a true love of mine


Tell him (her) to reap it with a sickle of leather
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And tie up the sheaves with a rope made of heather
Then (s)he'll be a true love of mine


If (s)he tells me (s)he can't I'll reply
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
"Let me know that at least you will try;"
Then (s)he'll be a true love of mine


"Love imposes impossible tasks,"
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
"Though never more than your own heart asks,
And I must know you're a true love of mine"


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

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