Scarborough Fair

I have a set of twins named Optimus Prime and Rodimus Prime. They are adorable Japanese Li’s cats and being that they share in the same genetic component, they do have similarities, but have many differences as well. They are my pride and joy and a reprieve from the worries of everyday life. Did I mention they assisted me in writing my novel, Secret Hostage? I’ll save that story for another day. But I do want to share a few cute photos of my boys.

I understand you’re wondering what two cats have to do with Scarborough Fair. Actually, two cats don’t it’s just one, and he’s Optimus Prime. He’s no more special than his brother, but Rodimus is more solitary and aloof and prefers it that way while Optimus bonds with me more so to the point its become a ritual especially during thunder storms. This week, we have had our share of these storms and Optimus has spent most of his time staying close to me and his preference of bonding is head bunting. They say when cats bunt they are creating a communal scent, and this also means he has accepted me into his cat colony and I have been anointed with his special colony scent. I smile!

During these storms, Optimus climbs onto my lap and I begin the ritual that only he and I understand and that’s singing to him Scarborough Fair. I have no clue why I chose this song when he was a baby, but it has been sung to him seemingly a thousand times and no other song will do. If I try to sing another tune, he bunts my head but its the understanding between the two of us that this particular song must be sung or he becomes finicky. Just two days ago, the storm outside was vicious and Scarborough Fair was in action for several hours. While I sang this over and over, I thought of the lyrics. I’ve heard this song since the late 60’s but never really it gave it thought until now.

“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……” The rendition I’m more familiar with is from Simon and Garfunkel and is referred to as Canticle which derives from another song, which was actually two songs down the list written by Paul Simon. Canticle is a psalm, an anthem, a hymn perhaps, a very spiritual term, but Scarborough Fair was done by British folk singer Martin Carthy when Simon first heard it back in 1965 while visiting London. Art Garfunkel adopted this arrangement by Carthy and integrated it with Canticle which was adapted from The Side Of A Hill. It was unfortunate that neither Simon nor Garfunkel gave any credit to Carthy when they recorded the arrangement of this folk song. Carthy accused Simon of stealing his work but according to Simon, he never realized that adopting the arrangement was stealing being that the song dates back to Medieval times.

This song is a traditional English ballad and the lyrics are predated around 1300 and was sung by Medieval bards throughout the English countryside. Because of the nature of this song, no one has been credited as the author with the song’s inception. Many have tried to give an opinion of the real meaning of this tune and I’ll admit, I’m not so sure I have an opinion other than the lyrics are complex and so is the music of Simon and Garfunkel. The only understanding I come to, is that perhaps maybe it’s a ghost trying to convince his lover not to commit suicide in hopes of joining him on the other side because he gives specific riddles that would have been impossible for her to complete. That’s just my theory on it and I’m more than likely so far from the truth.

However, I do find it intriguing that the song includes herbs. I studied these herbs and learned why they may have been used in these lyrics. “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme which may seem meaningless, but to the folks in Medieval times these herbs were like roses to them. A lot of people believe that the herbs were nothing more than a placeholder because the original line had been forgotten in the song which is what happens to traditional folk music being passed down through oral tradition which is why there are so many versions of many old songs. So, what are the meanings of these herbs?

Parsley was used for comfort and to remove bitterness. Sage for strength, rosemary for love and thyme for courage and it has been said that these herbs were used in a special tonic to remove curses. In our times, parsley is nothing more than a food decoration, which by the way, I love on pasta. Parsley is also good for treating indigestion. I won’t go into detail about these herbs as most of us already know their purpose in our modern lives and yes, in my cabinet you will find all four sitting in their proper place.

Is there a place called Scarborough? You bet there is and it’s located on the North sea Coast of North Yorkshire in England and there is a Scarborough Fair that still continues today. It was a place to go for an open-air trading market where merchants and tradesmen would gather from all over the country to sell their wares. From August 15th to September 29, it became England’s place to be. Many would come around to this auspicious event and participate. Today, folks come for jousting, archery and other traditional fair activities and there are also beach activities on the South Bay not to leave out the surfing contest on North Bay. Big differences between the Medieval expo and today’s modern activities. Is it on my bucket list to visit? It is now.


Today, another storm is coming through and Optimus is already gearing up for his Scarborough Fair affair. I love thunderstorms and the bonding of Optimus Prime and thanks to him, I am a little more educated about Scarborough and the infamous song Scarborough Fair…

8 Replies to “Scarborough Fair”

  1. A wonderful story Jane, and I learned some facts even I didn’t know and I only live 3 hours away from Scarborough, During the plague that ravaged most of Europe in between the 1300’s to the 1600s was Bubonic plague, a disease of rodents, especially black rats were spreading this everywhere, 25 million people died, but a lot of the cures used at the time were herbs and petals from flowers, placed on their tongues, could this have any bearing on the song I wonder?
    Thank you for posting this so beautifully xx

    1. As a matter of fact, those same herbs mentioned in the song above were definitely used for medicinal purposes. They still stand true to their own and those same remedies back then should be brought back. It’s better than the chemicals we ingest taking the deadly meds we take.

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