The lyrics of "Scarborough Fair" have much in common with a Scottish ballad titled " The Elfin Knight ", one of the many ballads collected by Francis James Child ,  and both songs are officially categorised as the same ballad. The song has been traced as far back as the s, and dozens of versions existed by the end of the 18th century. The references to the traditional English fair, " Scarborough Fair " and the refrain " parsley , sage , rosemary , and thyme " can only be traced to 19th century versions and the refrain may have been borrowed from the ballad Riddles Wisely Expounded , Child Ballad 1 , which has a similar plot. The oldest versions of " The Elfin Knight " circa contain the refrain "my plaid away, my plaid away, the wind shall not blow my plaid away". Some relatively recent Scottish recordings contain similar refrains such as "Blaw, blaw, blaw ye winds blaw And the dreary wind's blawed my plaidie awa'".
Simon & Garfunkel Made It Famous but It Dates Back to Medieval Times
About its lyrics
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Like any fair, it attracted traders, entertainers and food vendors, along with other hangers-on. The fair peaked in the late 14th century but continued to operate until the end of the s. Now, several fairs are held in remembrance of the original. The lyrics for "Scarborough Fair" talk about unrequited love. A young man requests impossible tasks from his lover, saying that if she can perform them, he will take her back. In return, she requests impossible things of him, saying she will perform her tasks when he performs his. The use of the herbs "parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme" in the lyrics has been debated and discussed.
As a market fair, comprising of traders, merchants and other vendors, it started sometime in the 14th century and used to take place until the 18th century. The music of the folk song is characterized by extensive harmonies and rising melodic lines. The purpose here was to develop a sensitive setting, akin to the story behind it. The song opens with acute melancholy, that then turns into a wonderful association of smooth harmonies and counter-melodies. The lyrics of Scarborough Fair puts forward the concept of unrequited love. The yearning is felt throughout the song, creating a perfect medieval love story in the process. A young man delegates certain impossible tasks to his lover with the condition that she would have to finish those to be able to come back to him. Consequently, the lady also requests equally impossible things from the man, with the condition that she would complete her tasks when he would complete his. The song was most certainly not composed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel as it predates them by hundreds of years.