Life and Living: Sunday’s Seasonings

     Once again, I find myself bringing concepts and ideas that started on Facebook over to the blogosphere, parsing and expanding on them, and positing them for your perusal and contemplation. (Wow, that was a mouthful!)

     Once again, it’s Sunday. It happens like that every seven days you know. Growing up, Sundays for me involved going to Sunday School and Church, sometimes with my grandmother, other times going solo to the church next to our house. The realisation of what Sunday is truly about however, didn’t dawn on me until quite a few years later into my adult life. Sunday… is about personal (and inter-personal) growth and enlightenment. (Trust me, this is actually going somewhere, but first please allow me to expand a bit on the day and its meaning(s)…)

     The etymology of “Sunday” goes all the way back to the Latin dies solis, which itself draws from ancient Greek, heméra helíou (“Day of the sun”). Well, what does the sun do? It provides heat and light, two of the things necessary for life to thrive on this “third rock from the sun.” It enlightens, or sheds light on, our world. So, we can think of today as a “day of enlightenment.” Today is a day of rest from life’s other six days of “sturm und drang”, a day to contemplate concepts and ideas which, when explained and realised, help us grow in our own personal life, as well as improve our understanding of the world around us and our place in it.

     I told you that story, to tell you this one;

     Earlier this morning on Facebook, a friend of mine (a fellow writer! Thank you, Megan.) posted a picture of four old silver spoons, with different herb names written on them in black Sharpie. As the picture suggests, they’re meant to stick in planters to tell what each plant is. The first two spoons bore the inscriptions, “Rosemary” and “Thyme.” This immediately brought to mind the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel song, “Scarborough Fair / Canticle.”

     The tune “Scarborough Fair” itself is a ballad that dates back to 1600’s Britain. (Go figure, me and all things “Anglophile”, that I would focus on this!) The following description of the song comes from Wikipedia;

     “The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former lover to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished.”

     Paul Simon picked up on the tune in the early sixties, while his collaborative partner, Art Garfunkel, added to it the “Canticle”, counter-point lyrics from the perspective of a soldier during war. The resulting song, “Scarborough Fair / Canticle” first appeared on Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 album, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”:

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

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt
Parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme

Without no seams nor needlework
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to find me an acre of land
Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Between the salt water and the sea strand
Then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

And to gather it all in a bunch of heather
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
She once was a true love of mine.





(On the side of a hill in the deep forest green)
(Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground)

(Blankets and bedclothes, a child of the mountains)
(Sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

(On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves)
(Washed is the ground with so many tears)

(A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)

(War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions)
(Generals order their soldiers to kill)

(And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten)

     What Simon and Garfunkel have given us here, is a clear message regarding the contrasts between peace and war, the simplicities of home and the complexities of the battle, and a “clarion call” to always ask why it is that we’re fighting, and what we’re fighting for. Is it worth the cost?

     As with any song worth the culmination of its notes and prose, this one has some deep symbology embedded in it as well. First and foremost, are the “powers-that-be” asking us to accomplish the impossible or the unreasonable, as the lyrics propose? Also, let’s look at the meanings behind the plants themselves;

  •      Parsley has been used throughout the centuries as a digestive aid. In other words, it strengthens the constitution.
  •      Sage is noted as being symbolic of physical power.
  •      Rosemary is symbolic of love, fidelity and remembrance.
  •      Thyme is symbolic of courage.

     In other words, as the soldier thinks of home, and those at home think of their loved ones away at war, they each enjoin the other to be strong, brave and mindful of their love for each other. This can also be similarly interpreted thus, as presented over at Wiki;

     “Both man and woman in this ballad invoke said powers in naming these herbs: mildness to soothe the bitterness of their relationship, spiritual strength to endure being apart from each other, faithfulness and lastly encouragement, to fulfill the impossible tasks given.”

     Many people have referred to this song as an “anti-war” song. Honestly, I don’t think so. I rather think that it’s much more contemplative than that. Sure, it was written during the height of the Vietnam war, a conflict that radically changed our entire society. A war which, after a fashion, seemed increasingly futile. This song however, also reflects on more personal, soldier-centric aspects of conflict, such as thoughts of home and hearth. (As a former soldier myself, I can testify that during the “downtime,” we often think of home.)

     I hope what I’ve presented here has enriched your growth as well as it has mine. I hope it has shed some light on your day, because that’s what Sunday is supposed to be seasoned with; enlightenment and growth.

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