Do the parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme mentioned in ballad “Scarborough Fair” have any special meaning?
In the Medieval period, the Scarborough Fair was an open trading event held in England over the course of 45 days that was one of the largest markets in the country at the time. Also during this period, most herbs were seen to have medicinal or magical purposes and many healers would give ill or unhappy individuals concoctions filled with these herbs. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme are all native herbs to England and were widely used in these concoctions with each herb being associated with a different quality or feeling. Parsley was associated with festivity and celebration, with Sage being a bringer of wisdom.
Rosemary was supposedly good for memory and thyme for courage. In this folk song, the author has mentioned these four herbs due to these qualities which he associates with his old love and her personality.