Henry's Songbook

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Scarborough Fair

  • (Trad / Martin Carthy)

    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 no seam nor needlework
    And then she'll be a true love of mine

    Tell her to find me an acre of land
    Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme
    Between the salt water and the sea strand
    And then she'll be a true love of mine

    Tell her to plough it with a lamb's horn
    Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme
    And to sow it all o'er with one pepper corn
    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 to thrash it all out with a bunch of heather
    And then she'll be a true love of mine

    (as sung by Martin Carthy)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1965:] [Rosemary Fair] My friends, Mary and Nigel Hudleston [from] Yorkshire, recorded this at Kilmore, Co. Wexford, in 1959. The singer, Mrs. Jeffries, called it Rosemary Lane, but I have restored Fair as the rime demands. [...] It appears as: Strawberry Fair, Scarboro Fair, Whittingham Fair, The Elfin Knight, The Lovers' tasks, My father gave me an acre of land, Sing Ivy. [...] Kidson, Sharp, Baring Gold [sic], Gardiner and Vaughan Williams all collected versions. (O Lochlainn II, 220)

  • [1965:] Folklorists and students of plant mythology are well aware that certain herbs were held to have magical significance and were used by sorcerers in their spells and conversely as counter-spells by those who wished to outwit them. The herbs mentioned in the refrain of this song (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) are all known to have been closely associated with death and also as charms against the evil eye. The characters in the Elfin Knight (of which Scarboro' Fair is a version) are a demon and a maid. The demon sets impossible tasks and on the maid's replies depends whether she will fall into his clutches or not. Child believed that elf to be an interloper from another ballad (Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight) and that he should rightly be mortal, but as Ann Gilchrist points out 'why the use of the herb refrain except as an indication of something more than mortal combat?' Sir Walter Scott in his notes to 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border' recalled hearing a ballad of 'a fiend ... paying his addresses to a maid but being disconcerted by the holy herbs she wore in her bosom' and Lucy Broadwood goes as far as to suggest that the refrain might be the survival of an incantation against such a suitor. (Notes 'Martin Carthy')

  • [1967:] Just as in the Middle Ages single episodes became detached from complex epic narratives to form complete ballads on their own, so in more recent times single lyrical details have become detached from ballads to lead an individual life as short songs. For instance, several epic accounts from ancient Greece, the Orient and Viking Iceland include among their chain of adventures the detail of an amorous battle of wits between a hero and a princess; the man wins the girl through the riddles he sets or solves. Detached from all its surrounding exploits, this episode became the substance of at least three English ballads - a supernatural one that Child calls The elfin knight, a homiletic one sometimes titled The Devil's nine questions, and an amatory one known as Captain Wedderburn's courtship or in slightly different shape as Scarborough Fair. [...] The latter seems to have come fairly late to England, and the change from sober parable to lovers' jest may have occurred during the seventeenth century [...]. At some time, the riddles became detached from the story and formed into as short lyrical song, a sentimental piece of seemingly unassailable popularity usually bearing as first line: "I gave my love a cherry without a stone". (Lloyd, England 154)

  • [1973:] The refrain often forms an important element in ballad structure. It may be external, occurring at the end of the stanza or, more usually, internal, being interspersed between the narrative lines. [...] Sometimes it consists of words that have a connection with the ballad or song, as in [Coasts of Barbary]. At other times it has no connection, but appears to consist of words arbitrarily introduced, such as [Scarborough Fair']. (Karpeles, Introduction 43f.)

  • [1975:] Martin Carthy [...] taught Paul Simon to sing of 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme'. (Dallas, notes 'The Electric Muse' 1)

    It's an ancient song, even older than the Fair in the title, which was last held in the Yorkshire seaside town in 1788. It's a version of the second ballad in Professor Child's collection, usually known as The Elfin Knight from the oldest known version of this riddle song found bound at the end of a book printed in Edinburgh in 1673 and rescued by Sir Richard Maitland. Baring Gould found a version being played as a children's game, itself an indication of ancient, possibly prehistoric lineage, since many kid's games are old rituals in decay. Martin's words are closest to those collected in Whitby, not far from Scarborough, by Frank Kidson about 100 years ago. The herbs of the chorus are believed to be charms against the devil, pointing to the magical significance of the seemingly impossible tasks the heroine must perform for her beloved. (Dallas, notes 'The Electric Muse' 9)

  • [1979:] A Co. Wexford song called Strawberry Fair uses many of the lyrics but has a different tune. (Loesberg I, 58)

  • german [1979:] Scarborough Fair ist eine nordenglische Ballade [...]. Nach Prof. Child wurde das Lied um 1673 zum ersten Mal in einem Liederbuch veröffentlicht. Martin Carthy [...] sang das Stück 1965 auf seiner ersten LP, von der es Paul Simon lernte und zusammen mit Art Garfunkel für den Film "Reifeprüfung" arrangierte. Dieses ist eines der vielen Beispiele, wie ein Folk-Song zum Pop-Song wurde. (Bursch 138)

  • german [1980:] Walter Bast zeigt sich nicht gut informiert, wenn er zu [...] Scarborough Fair bemerkt, es sei "ursprünglich eine ziemlich männlich-chauvinistische Geschichte [...]", und erst in Oliver Boltens Übersetzung werde daraus "ein Dialog zwischen den Geschlechtern". Scarborough Fair ist eine Version eines Themas, das auch in der Ballade vom Elfin Knight behandelt wird, in der ein Elf oder der Teufel von einem Mädchen verlangt, sie solle seine - zumindest auf den ersten Blick - unlösbaren Rätsel lösen, andernfalls sei sie ihm verfallen. Das Mädchen kann sich retten, indem sie [sic!] entweder seine Rätsel löst oder, in einer alten Version, zufällig den Namen des bösen Geistes ausspricht, der darauf zur Hölle fahren muß. Der Böse nähert sich immer unter dem Gewand des Liebhabers.

    Das Motiv des Rätsellösens ist weitverbreitet in Sagen und Märchen. [...] Die Erwähnung der Kräuter - "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" - spricht ebenfalls für die dämonischen Aspekte in diesem Thema. Alle diese Pflanzen hatten Assoziationen zum Tod und waren als Schutzmittel gegen das Böse und den bösen Blick bekannt. [...] Rosmarin stand auch für Beständigkeit oder Erinnerung [...], Thymian für Fruchtbarkeit. Diese Kräuter wurden ins Kopfkissen eines jungen Mädchens getan, damit sie von ihrem künftigen Ehemann träume. Die Assoziationen, die in diesen Themen stecken, sind also vielschichtig, und offenbar geht es auch um die Angst vor der Sexualität und die daraus resultierende Sicht des anderen Geschlechts als Böses. [...] Man hat den Sinn schon früher nicht mehr so recht verstanden, und aus der Zeile mit den Kräutern wurde "Let every rose grow merry in time" oder "Every rose grows merry betimes". A.L. Lloyd vermutet, daß der Übergang im Inhalt des Liedes von der Abwehr des Bösen zum Gewinn eines Ehemanns durch das Lösen der Rätsel im 17. Jahrhundert geschah. (Gerhard Weydt, Folk Michel 40, S. 40f)

  • [1982:] The elfin knight is the name given to another of the great families of folksongs. The theme is of a girl setting her man a series of riddles, with herself as the prize. Are you going to Scarborough Fair? is one version. The original ballad - at the least, from the seventeenth century, and probably earlier - is about a series of riddles posed by 'the laird of Rosslyn's daughter' to 'Captain Wedderburn, a soldier of the king'. [...] Having solved all the riddles, the Captain gets his girl. (Pollard, Folksong 31)

  • [1999:] Paul Simon [...] shamelessly lifted Carthy's arrangement of the traditional old Scarborough Fair. Although most people aren't aware of it, Simon was forced to make a legal settlement in 1970. (Mic Moroney, Irish Times, 13 June)

  • [2000:] Martin [Carthy] appeared onstage with Paul Simon at the Hammersmith Apollo during the last week of October. The "Scarborough Fair Saga" was finally put to bed as the two of them performed it together. Here's a word or two from Martin about the experience.

    "It was a great moment and the whole thing is about as satisfying as it could be. And all because of a phone call from Paul a week or so beforehand with, among other things, an invitation to his London gig, an invitation which turned out to be an invitation to sing. So I accepted. The feeling has been growing more and more in me that, at the very very least, it was time to let go. Putting it quite bluntly: even if I had cause to be aggrieved - which I was becoming less and less sure was ever really the case - I cannot be a victim all my life. In fact, in an interview ten years ago or so, Paul thanked publicly all the musicians and others he had known in England in the sixties, and this gave a shove to that train of thought in me. In interviews more recently I have found myself, when faced with the inevitable question, less and less willing to go through this "trudge through the grudge". What I had felt was, I think, more to do with injured pride than actually being cheated by the man. It has become apparent over the years that any such cheating was done by others in the course of or in the aftermath of lawsuits.

    For a fair time now the music he makes has been telling me one important thing and finally I have taken notice. That this is a good man. Gracious too. His musicians love him and feel valued. They respond by being just about the best band they could possibly be. Simply hearing them play that night was to be given a masterclass. I was quite nervy at the thought of going out there and singing but Paul himself made it very easy. What else is there to say? Except that I left the Hammersmith Apollo a very happy man, with a weight off my mind and a real feeling of release. And all it took was to sing and talk with him at the end of the London leg of his tour. This is someone who values the life he has led - all of it - and detests the idea of bad blood. I'm thankful to him for having the imagination and the grace to pick up the phone and set up what has made an end of this nonsense. It's over." (Waterson Carthy website,


Quelle: England

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