Scarborough Fair 1969 as I Remember it…

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Scarborough Fair poem by Darlene Witte

When I was seventeen I left my father’s door
for the Scarborough Fair.

My footsteps, slowed by his dark weight
breath blocked, voice asleep,
the ground where I sought to root myself

There was no map to read on moonless nights
and there were so many moonless nights.

Then, came Rosemary, herself a child of the mountains
that generous, healing, resinous herb-of-remembering.
She stirred my brain, soothed my mind
And I began to know how to breathe my own breath.

Rosemary brought with her
our Brother Thyme
who reached down for me through cracked earth
and I began to rise
to wander with them, through fragrant high meadows of mountains.

In those gentle pauses between the new-risen and the sensed-but-not-seen
they manifested strength to my bones.

Sage came next, mountain Father of them all,
Salvare, he who walks by smoke.
He steadied my heart, awakened the knife of resolve
sharpened my mind, cut the shadowed past away.

And then, it was the humble Parsley, the savor of the valleys
who taught me to see again: Healed my blindness.
Fought my fatigue.
Gave into my hands
folds of fresh cambric
and from that, I made myself a map.

I stitched my way, wove in threads of color
And roadways of possibility.

I awoke, finally, amid the rising shine of my own moon-lit night.
I now walk freely upon sweet well-watered shores.
I sleep with no tears.
I sing my own Scarborough.

My father? He gives breath to the North Wind yet.
He rides rough through rain-shadowed rot
passing again and again down the depths of that grey
moonless valley where he once left me.

He wanders far, so far away and away.
He’s forgotten his own heart.
He passes by the swing – the roll of release
The sage-ed wisdom – the wonder of wishes
and I cannot show him a way to the fair.

Note: The original song, “Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?” was passed down in the folk canon from the 1600’s. It was brought back to our attention by the New Christy Minstrels in the 1970’s. How I loved that song when I was 17. I was determined to, one day, find my own Scarborough Fair. During the summer of 2019 I was listening to the achingly beautiful rendition released in 1966 as Scarborough Fair/Canticle by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and realized in a moment of clair-cognizance, that the traditional ballad Parsley, Sage Rosemary & Thyme was possibly an ancient recipe that the preliterate culture of the 1600’s had preserved. I had grown and dried jars full of all these herbs that summer. Excited, I combined them and began to add a little spoonful to every dish I cooked. I found that the combined herbs complemented and enhanced every savory dish from scrambled eggs to fish to baked squash without being in the least overpowering. Is this the English version of the famed Herbes de Provence, which often contains such herbs as savory, rosemary, marjoram, oregano & lavender? It is possible that people in the 1600’s may have enjoyed the blend in their food, and they may have had some understanding of the medicinal benefits of each: Parsley cleanses and clears toxins, helps with love, protection & purification; Sage improves memory, prevents rot, offers protection, purification, wisdom and wishes; Rosemary awakens mental powers & improves memory; Thyme offers physic powers and enhances sleep.

Darlene Witte
Darlene Witte

Professor of Education, (retired) at Johnson State College in Vermont leads the Green Mountain Writers' Poetry & Performance workshop that meets on Zoom each month on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays at 7 PM ET. Find out more at

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