Scarborough Fair/ CANTICLE (4)

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Cairn_in_Snow_-_.jpg
David Caspar Friedrich

  

 

    CANTICLE

On the side of a hill in the deep forest green.
Tracing of sparrow on snow-crested brown.
Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

On the side of a hill in the sprinkling of leaves.
Washes the grave with silvery tears.
A soldier cleans and polishes a gun.
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions.
Generals order their soldiers to kill.
And to fight for a cause they have long ago forgotten.

The lines interspersed with “Scarborough Fair” are called, in the title of that song, “Canticle”, a word meaning “a song taken from the Bible”.
This “Canticle” is taken from “The Side of a Hill”, an anti-war song Simon wrote in 1965
Verse 1

On the side of a hill in the deep forest green.
Tracing of sparrow on snow-crested brown.
Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

The setting is “on the side of a hill,” where the snow forms a bed for a child “unaware of the clarion call.
The child seems sleeping, and we are not yet told there is a grave, his grave beneath the snow. The author only hints at it at first.
Verse2

On the side of a hill in the sprinkling of leaves.
Washes the grave with silvery tears.
A soldier cleans and polishes a gun.
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.

In the second verse, it is clear this is a “grave.” Nature seems the only entity that mourns: the leaves are crying.
There is also a soldier polishing his gun, without showing any emotion: maybe he is related to the fallen child

Verse3

War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions.
Generals order their soldiers to kill.
And to fight for a cause they have long ago forgotten.

Here the line mentioning the “battalions” confirms that the “clarion” is related to war , but the dead boy is oblivious to the clarion call to battle. There are also “generals (that) order their soldiers to kill” for a forgotten cause that has lost its meaning or purpose

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