> Martin Carthy > Songs > Scarborough Fair / The Elfin Knight
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> Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr > Songs > Whittingham Fair / For Whittingham Fair
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The Elfin Knight / Scarborough Fair / Whittingham Fair / Rosemary Lane

[ Roud 12 ; Child 2 ; G/D 2:329 ; Ballad Index C002 ; Wiltshire 1074 ; trad.]

Martha Reid of Blairgowrie, Perthshire, sang The Elfin Knight in 1955 to Maurice Fleming. This field recording was included in 2011 on the Greentrax CD Songs and Ballads from Perthshire (Scottish Tradition 24). Further versions of her can be found on Peter Shepheard's Springthyme Records page of The Elfin Knight.

A.L. Lloyd sang Scarborough Fair in 1956 on his and Ewan MacColl's Riverside anthology The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (The Child Ballads) Volume IV. All of his ballads from this series were reissued in 2011 on his Fellside CDs Bramble Briars and Beams of the Sun.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger sang The Elfin Knight in 1956 on their Tradition album Classic Scots Ballads. He commented in the sleeve notes:

A universal theme of both folk tale and ballad is that of impossible tasks. In this ballad, the form it takes is that of the courtship, with on flirtatious lover setting a series of tasks and his companion meeting the challenge by setting an equally difficult series. In early forms of the ballad, an elfin knight posed the tasks, to be answered by a maiden who remains free by devising tasks of no less difficulty which must be answered first. Modern folk have made both characters mortal enough. Child had nineteen versions of this ballad, which he traced in his affinities through many languages of Europe and Asia. It is well known in England and America. This version was learned from Greig's Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs.

He also sang The Elfin Knight on his 1964 Folkways album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 3—Child Ballads.

Both Bob and Ron Copper of Rottingdean and Thomas Moran of Mohill, Co. Leitram, sang The Elfin Knight in a medley on the anthology The Child Ballads 1 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 4; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

Shirley Collins sang Scarborough Fair unaccompanied in 1960 on her second album, False True Lovers. She commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Derived by MacColl from Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs, [this] is a fragment of an extremely ancient ballad (Child No. 2, The Elfin Knight), common in all areas of Britain and North America. In the original song a girl hears the far-off blast of the elfin knight's horn and wishes he were in her bedroom. He straightaway appears, but will not consent to be her lover until she answers a series of riddles. This trait of test-by-riddle is a heritage from remote antiquity. The survival of this ancient piece of folklore is assured by the fact that all the couplets in this song contain gentle, but evocative erotic symbols.

Martin Carthy sang Scarborough Fair in 1965 on his first album Martin Carthy, and it was included on the compilations The Big Folk, Shades of Folk, and Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock, and in 1999 on Martin Carthy: A Collection. He sang a slightly different version on Wood Wilson Carthy, and yet another together with Bert Jansch on Acoustic Routes under the title The Elfin Knight. These two versions were both included as starting and closing track of the 4 CD anthology The Carthy Chronicles. Carthy commented in his first album's sleeve notes:

Folklorists and students of plant mythology are well aware that certain herbs were held to have magical significance—that they were used by sorcerers in their spells and conversely as counter-spells by those that wished to outwit them. The herbs mentioned in the refrain of Scarborough Fair (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) are all known to have been closely associated with death and also as charms against the evil eye. The characters in the Elfin Knight (of which Scarborough Fair is a version) are a demon and a maid. The demon sets impossible tasks and on the maid's replies depends whether she will fall into his clutches or not. Child believed that elf to be an interloper from another ballad (Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight) and that he should rightly be mortal, but as Ann Gilchrist points out “why the use of the herb refrain except as an indication of something more than mortal combat?” Sir Walter Scott in his notes to Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border recalled hearing a ballad of “a fiend …paying his addresses to a maid but being disconcerted by the holy herbs she wore in her bosom” and Lucy Broadwood goes as far as to suggest that the refrain might be the survival of an incantation against such a suitor.

This video shows Martin Carthy with members of the Aurora Orchestra on BBC Radio 3 In Tune on February 24, 2012:

In 1966, Paul Simon had a big hit with this song in Martin Carthy's arrangement as title track of his album Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme. He also sang Scarborough Fair in episode 5/11 of The Muppet Show:

Cyril Tawney sang this ballad with the tile The Tasks in 1969 on his Polydor album The Outlandish Knight: Traditional Ballads from Devon and Cornwall. He commented in his sleeve notes:

A composite version of The Elfin Knight taken from the Baring-Gould manuscripts. With the exception of two verses from John Hext of Postbridge, Devon (October 1890), all the ‘ingredients’ come from West of the Tamar. An unknown source from the Camelford district supplied Baring-Gould with all the other verses and I have used the refrain sung to him by Joseph Dyer of Mawgan-in-Pyder, together with Dyer's tune. Baring-Gould was told that in Cornwall this used to be sung as a sort of game in farm-houses, between a young man who went outside the room, a girl who sat on a chair and a chorus of farm lads and lasses. The man re-entered and addressed the girl with the first half of the ballad and she replied with the second half. Known as Whittingham Fair in Northumberland and Scarborough Fair in Yorkshire, a chocolate-boxy version of the latter being very popular with modern folk-singers.

Robin and Barry Dransfield sang Scarborough Fair in 1970 on their Trailer album The Rout of the Blues. A live recording of Robin Dransfield at the Medway Folk Centre in November 1972 was included in 2008 on his CD A Lighter Touch.

Liz Jefferies sang this song, with the unusual title Rosemary Lane, to Barry and Chris Morgan in their own home in Bristol in September 1976. This recording can be found on the anthology As Me and My Love Sat Courting (The Voice of the People Series Volume 15; Topic 1998).

Nancy Kerr sang Whittingham Fair in 1993 on her and Eliza Carthy's eponymous album Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr and on their compilation CD On Reflection. Nancy commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Whittingham Fair is from Folk Songs of the North Countrie by Frank Kidson and Alfred Moat, under the title Scarborough Fair. The “Northumbrianised” version is from my mother and the tune can be found in Kidson's Traditional Tunes.

and Eliza added:

[The tune] For Whittingham Fair was a flash of inspiration while I was learning the song in my bedroom. Original title, isn't it?

Brian Peters sang Scarborough Fair in 1994 on his CD Squeezing Out Sparks.

Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing sang Scarborough Fair in 1997 on their WildGoose CD Call & Cry.

Lucky Bags sang Whittingham Fair in 1998 on their Fellside CD Delight in Disorder. They commented in their liner notes:

The text of this version is from Songs of Northern England (Stokoe) and has the same pedigree as its better known cousin, Scarborough Fair, both originating from Child Ballad no. 2 The Elfin Knight. The setting of impossible tasks seems to have been a very popular way of whiling away the time in many different parts of Britain. (Producer's note: c.f. recording Lucky Bags!)

Tim van Eyken sang The Cambric Shirt in 2003 on Dr Faustus' Fellside CD The First Cut.

Chris Wood sang Scarborough Fair in 2010 on The Imagined Village's album Empire and Love.

Jon Boden sang Scarborough Fair as the March 14, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Emily Smith sang this ballad as Sweet Lover of Mine in 2011 on her CD Traiveller's Joy. This track was also included on the CD BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2012. She also sang it in a bonus session of the DVD Cambridge Folk Festival 2011.

Mike and Ali Vass sang The Elfin Knight in 2011 on their CD Waiting to Fly.

Compare to this the related title An Acre of Land sung by John Kirkpatrick on Brass Monkey's album Sound and Rumour. And Jim Copper recorded An Acre of Land for the BBC in 1952.

Bellowhead recorded Rosemary Lane in 2014 for their Island record Revival. They commented in their booklet notes:

Taken from a singer called Liz Jefferies (the original being available on the Voice of the People CD series issued by Topic Records), almost everyone will be aware of the underlying story in that it's a version of Scarborough Fair, known the world over via Simon & Garfunkel. It's a song where a suitor is set a number of impossible tasks in order to satisfy the demands of their prospective lover. The narrative is so strong that it's survived down the generations, like many a fable of fairy tale, albeit in subtly changed versions. But in true trad style, all these versions are actually themselves a much abridged version of an even older folk song called The Elfin Knight. Incidentally, Paul Simon's version was borrowed from a legendary figure in English folk, Martin Carthy.

Kim Edgar learned The Elfin Knight from Gavin Grieg's Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs (Aberdeen, 1925) and sang it on Cara's 2016 CD Yet We Sing. The album's liner notes commented:

[…] Kim was immediately drawn to this song's themes: enchantment, desire, the supernatural, and relationships that aren't destined to be. It's been previously recorded by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger on their [1956] album, Classic Scots Ballads, amongst others—but for this version we've made a new arrangement.

Lyrics

Martha Reid sings The Elfin Knight

O fetch to me aye a Holland shirt,
Aye thout either needle or needle work.
For you'll wash it in to yon draw well
Where there never was water nor one drop o dew fell.

For you'll hing it oer yon Thornhaugh bush,
Where there never was thorns since Adam was born.
And it's ho, ho the wind'll blow.

For you'll fetch to me two acres of land
Between thon salt sea and thon salt sea strand.
For you'll ploo it up with a devil tup's horn,
You will sew it ower with one grain of corn,
And it's ho, ho the wind'll blow.

For you will ripen it up with one blink o sand,
You'll cut it down with a pea-hen's feather.
You'll stook it up by the stung of a nettle,
And it's ho, ho the wind'll blow.

For you'll yoke two sparrows in a matchbox,
An cart it home to your own farm yard,
And it's ho, ho the wind'll blow.

For surely when you put such task on me,
I'll surely put aye as hard on you.
You'll, how many ships sails in thy forest?
How many strawberries grows on the salt sea?
And it's ho, ho the wind'll blow.

Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger sing The Elfin Knight Kim Edgar sings The Elfin Knight

There stands three trumpeters on yon hill
   Blaw, blaw, blaw winds, blaw,
And they blaw their trumpets sae loud and shrill
   And the wind it blaws aye my plaid awa'.

The Elfin Knight stands on yon hill
   ba, ba, ba lily ba,
And he blows his horn baith loud and shrill,
   And the wind has blown my plaid awa'.

Gin I'd his trumpet in my kist
And was in the lad's airms that I like best

If I had yon horn in my kist,
   ba, ba, ba lily ba,
And were in the lad's arms that I love best
   And the wind would blow my plaid awa'.

Gin ye would be wed wi' me
There's ae thing ye maun dae for me

Gin ye would be wed tae me,
   ba, ba, ba lily ba,
There's ae thing ye maun to me dee,
   And the wind shall blow my plaid awa'.

Ye maun mak' me a linen sark
Withoot a stitch o' needlewark

I maun hae a fine linen sark,
   ba, ba, ba lily ba,
Withoot a stitch o' needlework,
   And the wind shall blow my plaid awa'.

Ye maun wash it in yon dry well
Where water never sprang nor fell

Ye maun wash it in yonder well
Where water never sprang nor fell

Ye maun dry't on yon hawthorn
That hasna seen blossom since man was born

Ye maun dry it upon a thorn
That hasna bloomed since man was born

And gin I mak a sark for thee
There's something you maun dae for me

Gin I mak a sark for thee
There's something you maun dee for me

My faither has an acre o' land
Ye maun ploo it wi' your ae hand

My father has an acre o' land
And ye maun ploo it wi' your hand

Ye maun sow it wantin' corn
And roll it wi' a sheep's shank bone

Ye maun sow it wantin' corn
And roll it all wi' a sheep's shank bone

Ye maun shear it wi' a scythe o' leather
And bind it wi' a peacock's feather

Ye maun stook it in the sea
And bring the wheat sheaf dry tae me

Ye maun stook it in the sea
And bring the wheat sheaf dry to me

And gin you wark noo all this wark
Come to me and you'll get your sark

When you've done and finished your work
You'll come to me, love, and get your sark

Blow winds, blow …

Martin Carthy sings Scarborough Fair Shirley Collins sings Scarborough Fair

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
    For once she was a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
    For once he was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Without no seam nor needlework,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Tell him to make me a cambric shirt,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Without a seam or needlework,
    And he shall be a true love of mine.

Tell him to wash it in yonder dry well,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Where water ne'er sprang nor drop of rain fell,
    And he shall be a true love of mine.

Tell him to hang it on yonder thorn,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Which never bore blossom since Adam was born,
    And he shall be a true love of mine.

Tell her to find me an acre of land,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the salt water and the sea strand,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Oh can you find me an acre of land,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the sea foam and the sea sand,
    And you shall be a true love of mine.

Tell her to plough it with a lamb's horn,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And to sow it all o'er with one peppercorn,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And to thrash it all out with a bunch of heather,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
    For once she was a true love of mine.

Nancy Kerr sings Whittingham Fair Martin Carthy sings Scarborough Fair

Are you going to Whittingham* Fair?
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
    She once was a true lover of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
    For once she was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Without any stitches or needlework,
    Then she'll be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Without no seam nor needlework,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Tell her to wash it in yonder dry well,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Where water ne'er sprung nor a drop of rain fell,
    Then she'll be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to hang it on yonder thorn,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
That never bore blossom since Adam was born,
    Then she'll be a true lover of mine.

Now he has asked me questions three,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
I hope that he'll answer as many for me,
    Then he'll be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to find me an acre of land,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand,
    Then he'll be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to find me an acre of land,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the salt water and the sea strand,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Tell him to plough it with a ram's horn,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And sow it all over with one peppercorn,
    Then he'll be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to plough it with a lamb's horn,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And to sow it all o'er with one peppercorn,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

Tell him to reap it with a sickle of leather,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And tie it all up with a peacock's feather,
    Then he'll be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather,
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And to thrash it all out with a bunch of heather,
    And then she'll be a true love of mine.

When he has done and finished his work,
    Savoury, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Well, tell him to come and tear up his shirt,
    And he'll be a true lover of mine.

Note: Nancy Kerr quite clearly sings “Whittingt-ham” — however spelled — with a “T” sound, not “Whittingham”.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
    Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Remember me to one who lives there,
    For once she was a true love of mine.

Liz Jefferies sings Rosemary Lane Bellowhead sing Rosemary Lane

As you will go down Rosemary Lane,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, you'll pick me out the finest girl there,
    And I will make her a true lover of mine.

If you will go down to Rosemary Lane,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, you'll pick me out the finest girl there,
    And I will make her a true love of mine.

Oh, tell her to get me a camberic shirt,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
To be done without needle or needle's work,
    And then she will be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
To be done without needle or needlework,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

And tell her to wash it in yonder well,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
Where water ne'er sprung nor rain never fall,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

And tell her to wash it in yonder well,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Where water ne'er sprung and rain never fell,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

And tell her to dry it on yonder sharp thorn,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
For one of her rose since Adam was born,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to dry it on yonder green thorn,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Where bloom never grew since Adam was born,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

When she is finished all of her work,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, tell her I'll got her camberic shirt,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

And when she has finished all of her work,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, tell her I'll call for my cambric shirt,
    Then she will be a true lover of mine.

And as you will go down Rosemary Lane,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, you'll pick me out the finest boy there,
    And I will make him a true lover of mine.

If you will go down to Rosemary Lane,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, you'll pick me out the finest boy there,
    And I will make him a true love of mine.

Tell him to get me an acre of land,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
Between the salt sea and the salt-sea sand,
    And then he will be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to get me an acre of land,
    Where very rose grows merry and fine,
Between the salt sea and the salt-sea strand,
    Then he will be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to plough it with a ram's horn,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
And sow it all over with one ben of corn,
    Then he will be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to plough it with a ram's horn,
    Where very rose grows merry and fine,
And sow it all over with one grain of corn,
    And then he will be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to reap it with a cock's feather,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
And bind it all over with strappings of leather,
    Then he will be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to reap it with a cock's feather,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
And bind it all over with strappings of leather,
    Then he will be a true lover of mine.

And tell him to drive home on a snail,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
And thrash it all over with a mouse's tail,
    And then he will be a true lover of mine.

And tell him to draw it home on a snail,
    Where every rose grows merry and fine,
Thrash it all over with an ox's tail,
    Then he will be a true lover of mine.

And when he has finished all of his work,
    Every rose grows merry and fine,
Oh, tell him to call for his camberic shirt,
    And then he will be a true lover of mine.

Every rose grows merry and fine

Acknowledgements and Links

See also Just Another Tune's study …Tell Her to Make Me a Cambric Shirt — From the Elfin Knight to Scarborough Fair and the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: The Elfin Knight (from Mary O'Hara, #2).

Martin Carthy's version transcribed by Garry Gillard with corrections from Kira White. Thanks to both of you!