Talk:Scarborough Fair (ballad)

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Simon and Garfunkel Infobox[edit]

An infobox was requested for the 1968 Simon and Garfunkel version ("Scarborough Fair/Canticle") at Wikipedia:WikiProject_Missing_encyclopedic_articles/List_of_notable_songs/12.  Done

Parsley, sage rosemary and thyme[edit]

I read that these four herbs represent virtues that were considered important to the lyrics. Parsley, means comfort, sage means strength, rosemary means love and thyme means courage.[1]

Goodbyekitty137 19:26, 02 Feburary 2010 (UTC)


Wrong notes![edit]

The notes in the picture is not the scores to Scarborough Fair!

You're right; it's incorrect. I've deleted it. See the "Media" section for the correct tune. Softlavender (talk) 21:23, 11 August 2008 (UTC)


added the Simon and Garfunkel arrangment; its a little messed up though, I'd parreciate it if someone could fix it

I removed this section. Do not submit copyrighted material without explicit permission. Joestynes 08:56, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Simon and Carthy source?[edit]

Anyone have a source for the information on the rift between Simon and Carthy, and its ending in 2000? Thanks. --Allen 00:36, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

Try Paul Castle's interview with Carthy. Bluewave 09:07, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

Herbal abortion?[edit]

As part of a medieval recreation group, I often hear people refer to Pasley Sage Rosemary and Thyme as a concoction suppose to induce an abortion, and recover from one. This leads to an obvious second message to the song. The concoction is also believed to be a contracptive, but the "once was a true love" bits suggests not in this case.

I have yet to have anyone fully substantiate this, and can find little internet information I'd consider reliable.

Salvia (sage): good after miscarriage or abortion.

It's possible Royal Thyme (Mentha pulegium aka Pennyroyal, which includes known abortive compound pulegone) is infered, but I not good enough at reading old script to determine if this likely.

Google keeps bringing me to this site - . However it appears to be part of a site full of bias and opinion stated as facts.

I'd also heard the theory that the herbs are all abortifacients, that is substances that can be used to cause a miscarriage. I discussed it with a herbalist friend who is also a member of the Order of the Laurel in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and she said that at most one of them is and one could be, but that the combination was no more likely to cause miscarriage than any other random set of four herbs. So I think it's a myth. --Eric TF Bat 00:15, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

There is a rather well known Swedish folk song, Uti vår hage, originating from Gotland, with a similar burden, mentioning six herbs. Incidently, four of them are roses, salvia, spearmint and a Swedish herb name hjärtans fröjd (delight of heart), which is used for several different herbs; most officially to-day for Lemon balm, but in this case also probably for some kind of mint. There is the same kind of wide-spread theory of this burden hiding a recipe for an abortive. Like Eric TF Bat, I have not been able to find corrobation for this; but of course the dissemination of information about abortifacients was not encouraged. Moreover, I've read an article (in Swedish) by by one of the grand old ladies in Swedish folk song research (Märta Ramsten, retired head of Svenskt visarkiv, the central Swedish folk song and ballad research institute), where she dismisses the idea as a 'modern myth', on the ground that the herbs be not known as abortifacients.
In the same article, Märta Ramsten contributes the interesting information that the burden of Uti vår hage or something very similarly has been found for several other Swedish songs and ballads; in one case as far back as aroung the year 1600:
Wungersuen snaka thill kärristen sin:
Min hiertans frödh,
wille J rida /J/ lunden Jdag,
Roser och saluier, lilijer och persilier
krusade mynte och hiertans frödh:
She also states: By the way, burdens containing enumerations of herbs – spices and medical herbs – also occur in Danish, German and English ballads.--JoergenB 20:31, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

I used to be an herbalist, and none of those plants are the least bit abortifacient or contraceptive! They are simply common culinary herbs. I've deleted that nonsense. Plus, you have to remember that the "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" refrain was an 18th-century creation, and had nothing at all to do with the Middle Ages. The medieval version of the song made no mention of any plants or herbs. Softlavender (talk) 10:37, 10 August 2008 (UTC)
Not in the "least bit"? But parsley is a known emmenagogue and may be used to facilitate abortions, and is widely contraindicated for pregnant women. — (talk) 20:03, 27 April 2009 (UTC)
I don't know where everyone is getting the idea that none of these herbs are abortificants, and running with this assumption. I'm an herbalist and parsley is something that I most often recommended to women with fibroids, PCOS, etc. to induce menstruation. It is too weak to act as an abortificant if the blastocyst has already implanted, but it is a strong emmenogogue and emergency contraceptive. Sage also, while not an abortificant or emmenogogue, is known to effect prolactin levels and its oil can sometimes act strongly enough on the uterus to trigger early miscarriage. It also contains thujone, the toxic abortificant found in several other contraceptive herbs. —Preceding unsigned comment added by RabbitGrrrl (talkcontribs) 23:39, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

I have a book of Cecil Sharp collected songs amongst which is a song called The Lovers Tasks, it is clearly an early version of this song and the song is also clearly about abortion. However, the herbs listed are different but sage is in there.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are used in a bouquet garni. No connection with abortions. I've read/heard a number of versions of this song including the Cecil Sharp Lovers Tasks and NONE of them are about abortion. More to the point the herbs are different in at least this version: - (which also has a different tune) while this version has an entirely different line in the same place: (A Cornish version) Panama1958 (talk) 19:50, 8 February 2013 (UTC)


The verses do not belong here. Either a link to an external site, or a Wikisource reference, but not here. Goldfritha 23:38, 5 July 2006 (UTC)

Indeed; i believe including full lyrics onto main pages violates copyright. I would advise the deletion of them,and adding a link to an external site on them. However, I'd rather hear a third opinion on the matter before any action if at all possible. Either confirmation or rejection.

Gowikiit 17:07, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

I agree that the verses should be on Wikisource rather than in the article itself, but it shouldn't be a copyright violation, since it's a traditional folk song. Mak (talk) 18:01, 5 May 2007 (UTC)
It's not a copyrighted song; it's a folksong. The lyrics are the focus of the discussion of the entire article, even the various singers' versions of the song, and so they need to be in the article. None of the vereses should be deleted, because they are each specifically referred to throughout the body of the article. Softlavender (talk) 10:34, 10 August 2008 (UTC)
I actually came here looking specifically for the lyrics and am rather astonished not to find them. Seems like minimal sort of information to include. (I can only see it being outsourced if the lyrics ran to great lengths.) JKeck (talk) 03:05, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

British TV show[edit]

I am surprised that no-one has updated the main article to include a 'also seen in' reference to the British TV show 'Rosemary & Thyme.' It is obviously both a tribute and a link to the song.

Grandma Roses

Why separate articles?[edit]

Note, that Child includes some variants of The Elfin Knight which essentially are Scarborough Fair versions. Like with St. Stephen and Herod, the fact that the ballad continues to be known and sung doesn't in itself disqualify it from the 'popular ballads'.--JoergenB 18:15, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Since no one commented or protested this, I guess no one disagrees with me merging the articles Scarborough Fair and The Elfin Knight(?). JoergenB 19:52, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
What happened about merging these articles? Johtso (talk) 00:19, 20 July 2016 (UTC)

"Parsley: I'm yours" et al.[edit]

The passage with the list that itemizes what the herbs symbolize is random and unexplained. At the very least there should be a link to a page that explains these seemingly arbitrary assignments. Otherwise this interpretation should be removed. Atw13 06:28, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

I think this was taken from the "The morden herbalist" article to which there is a reference. However, this rather light-touch article in its turn doesn't give better references than just that this was information found on the net. JoergenB 03:12, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
According to that link, parsley and thyme have their meanings as the reverse of what they are here. If no one can clean up that section of the article (at least add the in-context citation and briefly explain the rationale, if not find something with a citation that predates the web) I would like to remove it.Atw13 05:24, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
Or just replace it by a handful of words and a link: For an attempt to explain the burden, see...? JoergenB 19:57, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
If it's incorrect, please clean it up or remove it. Softlavender (talk) 21:30, 11 August 2008 (UTC)


There seems to be quite a bit of confusion as to the melody of this song. As previously commented, the score in the image is not the tune most know of as being the song, which is that sung in the media file. The trivia section claims the melody to be the same tune as that of "We Three Kings." The "We Three Kings" I know is only vaguely similar at best to the Scarborough Fair in the media file, and nothing like the melody in the image. Another trivia file states, rightly, that the song is in the Dorian mode (again, the familiar one), but the melody in the image is E minor, not E Dorian. It is not outlandish to think there may be more than one melody to this song, and it would be nice if someone more knowledgeable could address that issue. Atw13 06:36, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

Where'd the 'familiar' melody come from if the original was 'we three kings' ?
No, it's not the melody of "We Three Kings" that matches, it's the meter. In other words, you can sing the songs to each other's tunes, if you work it right. The pacing is just different. There's a similar phenomenon between "America the Beautiful" and "Auld Lang Syne", which can be sung straightforwardly and easily, to each others' tunes. Wahkeenah 03:41, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
If the notes are different, and the meter is the same except for the syncopation and/or the pacing, then what's left? The same number of syllables per line? Hardly noteworthy. And even that breaks down at the third line - "Field and fountain, moor and mountain," is nothing like, "Remember me to one who lives there." Atw13 05:16, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, that at least is pretty piontless trivia, I'll remove it. As to the tune, it's very normal for a folk song to have a number of tunes, some of them only very distantly related to each other. For the example I sang it to the tune I know, but I could also make a recording of the tune that's in the sheet music now, or I could maybe make another sheetmusic example, or I could do both, depending on what people want. Mak (talk) 05:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Sarah Brightman[edit]

Why is there a Sarah Brightman discography box at the bottom of the page? This is to me completely out of place. Joeykelly (talk) 02:44, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

You're right; I've removed it. Softlavender (talk) 10:29, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

Other lyrics[edit]

If we're going to have lyrics at all here -- and assuming the article is a serious investigation of this old song itself, rather than an S&G puff piece -- we should see other versions, some radically different, e.g.:

If you're going to the very next town,
When it's marrying time,
Ask a pretty girl in the very next town,
If she'll be a true love of mine.

Xiongtalk* 12:30, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

This doesn't seem to really fit the tune, and also misses the refrain... Orphan Wiki 17:32, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with Image:ParsleySage.jpg[edit]

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This is an automated notice by FairuseBot. For assistance on the image use policy, see Wikipedia:Media copyright questions. --05:06, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

"parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme"[edit]

About "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme", I've always assumed that it was the singer remembering how the Fair smelled. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:49, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

Nothing here seems very relevant and much of it lacks citations... (talk) 12:16, 7 September 2010 (UTC)

Restoring material on source of ballad[edit]

Somewhere back in October, someone deleted a cited connection between this ballad and The Elfin Knight (see this diff). As this deletion was completely unexplained, I have restored that material. - JRBrown (talk) 00:21, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Other artists[edit]

The "other artists" section is a mess. First, it's so long and rambling that a lot of utter trivia has made its way into it. Aside from that, if that many people have recorded the song, is there really a point to listing them? It's like a list of actors who have played Hamlet, or a list of books about George Washington. -Jason A. Quest (talk) 02:57, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Time Signatures[edit]

Originally played in 3/4 time. Simon and Garfunkel's rendition makes it a little difficult to obtain because of the over-lapping time signatures which starts with 3/4 then shifts between 12/8 and 9/8 and ends back in 3/4. The bass is playing 8th notes when it comes in earlier in the song. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:49, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

Notable enough entry?[edit]

Is it? Orphan Wiki 21:58, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

Rhythm problem[edit]

In the original version of the melody, what is the correct rhythm of the word "parsley"?? It is 2+1 or R+1+1 (where R means rest)?? Georgia guy (talk) 17:14, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

Pronoun PC-ness[edit]

I propose we delete the (s) and (her) from the text of the lyric, for three reasons:

  1. I *believe* that the editing guidelines discourage "(s)he" and "him (her)" in general
  2. In a rhythmic medium (such as poetry or song) they're really inappropriate, since they destroy the meter
  3. A conversion to politically correct "them/they" is inappropriate, since no living record of the lyric actually sung that way exists. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Riventree (talkcontribs) 00:27, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
Historically, the first few verses (about the making of the shirt) are a man speaking to (or about) a woman, whereas the later verses are her response to him. Modern versions tend to loose the plot and have the entire song from the man's point of view. Perhaps the best choice would be to choose a version from a specific cited source, and match their formatting. - JRBrown (talk) 16:43, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

"Other artists" (again)[edit]

Is there any good reason why Justin Hayward and Sarah Brightman should have their own sub-sections? Or why the Brightman version needs an infobox? There's nothing more significant about their versions over dozens of others. I'll be bold and relegate them to the status of "other artists", on the grounds of due weight. Ghmyrtle (talk) 19:37, 27 October 2011 (UTC) PS: Though, frankly, the whole "other artists" section is so dismally full of trivia that it may be better to get rid of the whole section, other than a sentence saying something like: "The song has also been covered by many other musicians." Ghmyrtle (talk) 19:42, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

I've removed the whole stupid thing. --jpgordon::==( o ) 16:27, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

Traditional vs. Simon and Garfunkel lyrics[edit]

Aren't the lyrics given here from the Simon and Garfunkel song? According to the article, the lyrics in parentheses are not traditional but were composed in the 1960s. It would seem more interesting (and more legal) to give the traditional lyrics, perhaps in more than one variation, and remove the added text. (talk) 20:39, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

The lyrics given are those of Scarborough Fair/Canticle - the Simon & Garfunkel song - and,as such, would be subject to copyright. I suggest this section be removed. Because this is a FOLK song there are a large number of variant lyrics. See here: --Panama1958 (talk) 13:27, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

At the very least the parts in parenthesis should be removed. Panama1958 (talk) 12:11, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Ewan MacColl[edit]

In the Commercial Versions section it reads:

"It is likely that both Coppard and Collins learned it from MacColl, who claimed to have collected it "in part" from a Scottish miner. However, according to Alan Lomax, MacColl's source was probably Cecil Sharp's One Hundred English Folk Songs, published in 1916."

There are all sorts of problems with this sentence.

There are several assertions and attributions that are not supported by the citations.

Alan Lomax is not mentioned at all. Cecil Sharp's "One hundred English folk songs" does not use the same words or (significantly) the same tune as MacColl.

The "who claimed to have collected it" is tendentious (ie POV) when used in a sentence in that way since it implies no further information was given. However, according to the cited page, MacColl's "claim" was not for a "Scottish miner", but specifically names his source as "Mark Anderson, retired lead miner of Middleton-in Teasdale, Yorkshire".

This needs to be sorted out. Ecadre (talk) 22:34, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

Indeed. I added the mention of Lomax in these edits back in 2011, but - rather embarrassingly - it's not clear to me now where I got the mention of Lomax from. The source I used at that time was, I think, this (the url has since changed), and there is much more information that can be used at the related page here. Much of the history of the song is based on claims and uncertainty, and so long as we reflect the language used in reliable sources there is no problem in expressing that uncertainty in this article. Ghmyrtle (talk) 07:45, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

Other recordings[edit]

I consider the CD version of Joel Frederiksen's Phoenix Ensemble absolutely worth adding to that section... What exactly are the criteria for a recording to be mentioned in such a kind of listing?

-- (talk) 18:59, 16 April 2015 (UTC)Noch ein Anderer

Removed false statement that the song is in Lang's "Man Hunt." I just watched the whole movie listening for it, it's not there.

DmitriTymoczko (talk) — Preceding undated comment added 01:07, 23 May 2015 (UTC)

Meaning of the ballad?[edit]

But what is it about? Its not a love song, the singer clearly does not want his old lover back, as he sets a series of impossible tasks, and she equally does not want him back. Why ask someone to remember you to an old friend and set them impossible tasks, to tease them, to embarrass them? Its not a nice thing to do? It could be a "joke", like asking someone to buy a tin of tartan paint or a bubble for a spirit level, but the impossible tasks themselves are not inherently humorous? I know nothing about herbs, but I was interested that there maybe a sub plot, an affair, an abortion, something darker between the two former lovers that mean they have fallen out and maybe don't actually like each other...? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Botus Flemming (talkcontribs) 15:34, 6 February 2016 (UTC)

Insufficient sourcing[edit]

A lot of the sources cited for the song's history fail WP:SPS and WP:UGC. These need to be replaced by reliable works from reputable publishers, per WP:V, WP:RS and WP:NOR, especially since much of it is analysis/evaluation/interpretation/synthesis, e.g suppositions about who learned the song from whom, and via what means.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:03, 27 May 2017 (UTC)

Sea sand[edit]

The lyrics of Scarborough Fair as given in this article should read 'sea strand' rather than 'sea sand'. I don't have the knowledge to edit the piece. Perhaps someone else could do it.

Dantes Warden (talk) 09:04, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

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the "other versions" list[edit]

I've removed all claims of recorded versions of this song that did not have a claimed supporting reference. Please only reinstate those that have citations.
Weeb Dingle (talk) 19:56, 4 February 2018 (UTC)

I've taken another pass, removing those that cited only YouTube videos, as well as those of musical acts not notable enough to have a Wikipedia article.
Weeb Dingle (talk) 20:03, 4 February 2018 (UTC)

Mediæval Bæbes[edit]

because I miss it in the List: the Version of the Mediæval Bæbes is not this Ballad? or aren't they famous enough to be listed? -- (talk) 14:44, 22 April 2019 (UTC)