This One Is For My Love

Music is like water.

*****

It quenches the soul, cools scorching days,

Calms frenzied minds, plays heart’s candy,

Powers the being;

Music sustains.

*****

Lullabies to dirges,

Music remains.

*****

Walkmans to discotheques,

Bhimsen Joshi to Pink Floyd,

Soothing ghazals to brisk songs of protest;

Iceland to Tahiti,

Music remains,

Ever so personal.

Ever the universal.

*****

Expressing what words cannot –

Hope, anguish, elation, hunger, freedom.

*****

Music captures – and – music sets you free.

*****     *****     *****    *****    *****      *****

History & Mystery of Scarborough Fair

I”ve always loved Scarborough Fair, an enchanting tune that when layered with Art Garfunkel’s vocals is, Magic. However, despite harbouring a penchant for knowing lyrics to any song I love by rote, this one I missed until recently. When the lyrics did sink in, my interest in the song only grew – researching it has been fascinating.

It’s believed that the song can be traced back to an older, more obscure Scottish ballad  The Elfin Knight (Child Ballad #2), which dates at least as far back as 1670 or even earlier. There are several of versions of the song because it’s been around this long, but I’m posting lyrics to the most popular of those. The song is usually sung as a duet – and you’ll see why. Alongside Simon and Garfunkel’s version, I’v added Celtic Woman’s version too. Both are worth several sighs.

Lyrics

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 needlework,
Then she shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to wash it in yonder well,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Where never spring water or rain ever fell 
And she shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to dry it on yonder thorn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Which never bore blossom since Adam was born,
Then she shall be a true lover of mine.

Now he has asked me questions three,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
I hope he'll answer as many for me
Before he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to buy me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to plough it with a ram's horn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And sow it all over with one pepper corn,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to shear it with a sickle of leather,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And bind it up with a peacock feather.
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to thrash it on yonder wall,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,
And never let one corn of it fall,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

When he has done and finished his work.
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme:
Oh, tell him to come and he'll have his shirt,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Scarborough & its Famed Fair

Scarborough, on the North Sea coast of North YorkshireEngland was allegedly founded around 966 AD. In the Middle AgesScarborough Fair, permitted in a royal charter of 1253, held a six-week trading festival attracting merchants from all over Europe. It ran from Assumption Day, 15 August, until Michaelmas Day, 29 September. Merchants and tradesmen from all over the area came to trade their goods through the barter system. It became a huge annual event with music, food and festivities. The fair continued to be held for 500 years, from the 13th century to the 18th century, and it is that which is commemorated in this song. The melody is very typical of the middle English period. (During the early 17th century, increasing taxation and competition from local markets and fairs caused the popularity of the fair to decline. Yet, even today, people gather for a medieval-themed fair in Scarborough).

The Riddle Riddled Song

The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former love 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. As mentioned, 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 with those.

Because 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 one that says it is about the Great Plague of the late Middle Ages. Also, as in most stories concerning impossible tasks set for lovers or suitors, the tasks set forth in this song are probably riddles, and once the riddle is solved then the task can be performed easily. “Plough it with a ram’s horn, and sow it all over with one peppercorn” could be read as a sexual reference (?)

The Refrain that is Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Again, there are several interpretations of why the refrain is what it is. Here are some more well-known ones- My favourite is the first version 😉

Version 1 –  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, like many other herbs, have a symbolic meaning that goes back centuries – that these were the main ingredients to an old witches love potion, a potion that was wildly popular in the middle ages.

Version 2 –

  • Parsley has been used as a digestant, which should take the bitterness out of certain comestibles. Some medieval physicians used this herb in a spiritual manner.
  • Sage is renowned as a symbol of power.
  • Rosemary represents fidelity, love, and remembrance and is therefore often used in traditional wedding customs. Rosemary for remembrance.
  • Thyme symbolizes courage and thus found its way into heraldry.

Both man and woman in this ballad invoke said powers in naming these herbs: mildness to soothe the bitterness of their relationship, spiritual strength to endure being apart from each other, faithfulness and lastly encouragement, to fulfill the impossible tasks given.

Version 3 – The four herbs are traditionally closely associated with death, as well as with being used in charms to ward off the evil eye and the song  uses them for the same.

Version 4 – Plague doctors at the time are thought to have used the herbs to cover-up the smell of death and decay. The herbs were supposedly put in the beak of their costumes.

Version 5 – The refrain is simply be the result of an attempt to fill in forgotten portions of the song. (How boring this, my least favourite version)

The Song, Sung

Scarborough Fair has been sung by several singers and therein lie some controversies too. But I’m writing this because Simon and Garfunkel brought me here, wrapping the this timeless classic in abundant wistfulness and delicacy. Enjoy.

This post borrows heavily from Wikipedia in addition to several other links I came across on Scarborough Fair. The images are courtesy sherwoodforesthistory.blogspot.com & Anne McLeod Images on Flickr.

Cat’s In The Cradle

Some songs morph into fine woven gold over time.

You may have heard them first as a tiny tot or a teenager. They stayed with you then for the melody, for the singer who sung them or because they were the favorite of an older cousin you idolized. Not for much else.

But as life twists & turns, you find yourself looking for words to soothe, fit into, cling to, take you through..that’s when they pop up, those songs of yore. Golden. Soft. Attempting to explain and understand.

I plan to post some such songs in a series called Petals.

…. And here’s the first of the lot ~ I understand it so much better now that I am a Mother.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home Dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home Dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then Son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home Son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home Son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then