Yesterday was May Day and, for whatever reason, that day always brings to my mind the song "Scarborough Fair" The song is perhaps best known as having been recorded and released by Simon and Garfunkel, although "Scarborough Fair" pre-dates the 20th century by a good deal. The song dates back to the either the 16th or 17th century, at a time when the English town of Scarborough was an important trading place. While I tend to think of May Day when I hear "Scarborough Fair," the actual Scarborough Fair was held starting on August 15.
The song itself could have been adapted from an earlier ballad called "Elfin Knight," which produced a good number of variants. As to the subject matter of "Scarborough Fair," it is esesntially a love song. "Scarborough Fair" is about a young man jilted by his lover, who then assigns her a number of impossible tasks if she would win him back.
Although the best known version was performed by Simon and Garfunkel, it has also been performed by various other artists. Sarah Brightman, Martin Carthy, Queensryche, Medwyn Goodall, and many others have recorded the song. It may well be the most successful medieval ballad of all time.
Anyhow, here it is:
"Scarborough Fair" as performed by Simon and Garfunkel
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