Scarborough Fair: analysis (3)


Pieter Bruegel the Elder



Scarborough Fair: analysis

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.

This very old song is about a young man instructing the listener to tell his former love to perform for him a series of impossible tasks. He will take her back only if she does those impossible tasks, so that means never.

Verse 1

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Without no seams nor needle work,
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
The first impossible task is to make a cambric shirt with no seams or needlework.
Cambric or batiste is a fine lightweight cotton fabric that was used for linens, shirts, handkerchiefs, ruffs, lace and needlework. The fabric is tightly woven and when completed, it has a slight glossy finish.
This material wasn’t actually available until the 1500s, and was produced at Cambrai. This is a French commune in the North of France, part of the metropolitan area of Lille In the Middle Ages the city became rich thanks to its weaving industry which produced woollen cloth, linen and cambric. Modern cambric is made from choice American or Egyptian cotton
Verse 2
Tell her to find me an acre of land:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Between the salt water and the sea sands,
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
She is also to find an acre of land between the ocean and the shore. In practice, he wants  her to find him an island and give it to him as a present. The deed is  very difficult, also  because she would have to leave her village and  start  a sea voyage in a time when the seas were dangerous and unknown to many people.
Verse 3a

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather:
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
And gather it all in a bunch of heather,
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.
After finding the island, she is to reap it using a useless sickle of leather and harvest it all in a bunch of heather. Leather is flexible and heather is too small and short to be used for tying a bunch


4 thoughts on “Scarborough Fair: analysis (3)

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