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Scarborough Fair

First line:
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
author of text

Scarborough Fair also appears as The Cambric Shirt, since it is the making of the garment from a tiny piece of linen that is the central factor in the ballad’s many forms: as the folklorists Iona and Peter Opie pointed out, this task can be traced to the Middle Ages, while a relative of the lines first appears as The Elfin Knight on a broadsheet from circa 1670. The incantatory refrain is probably part of a longer list of plants possessing magical properties to assist resolution of otherwise impossible errands, although further transmutations scrambled it to ‘Every rose grows merry in time’. Some of the labours were incorporated into the 19th-century nursery song My father left me three acres of land, thus producing a tale of incredible accomplishments but shorn of riddle and mystery. The tune with which it is now most closely associated is quite unlike the long-abandoned melody collected by Sharp, and appears to be of comparatively recent origin, possibly collected in part from a Scottish miner by Ewan MacColl around 1950. It was popularised extensively by Simon & Garfunkel (who learned it directly from Martin Carthy), counterpointed with an anti-war lyric by Simon: although this later text is quite unrelated to the story, despite the inclusion of such generic imagery as ‘deep forest green’ and ‘scarlet battalions’.

from notes by Andrew Plant © 2019


Love from King's
Studio Master: KGS0023-DDownload onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The King's Singers - Gold
Studio Master: SIGCD500Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
The last rose of summer
Studio Master: SIGCD598Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 9 on KGS0023-D [3'25] Download only
Track 18 on SIGCD500 CD1 [3'17] Download only
Track 15 on SIGCD598 [3'17] Download only

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