I’ve mentioned many times before that the song “Scarborough Fair” (first published in the 1890s) probably figured into John’s life, or at least incidentally triggered memories of ruins in England in me from a young age. I probably also mentioned that the ruins I remembered were often confused with the rather old ruins of plantations and early Colonial settlements I grew up around in my childhood in South Carolina, and with the many medieval towns I’d visited in Spain as a toddler. Only when I began looking for specific features (sunken doorways, Romanesque arches and columns, earthworks from long-abandoned gardens) did I notice that those features could be found on medieval ruins in the Welsh Marches that correspond in their current state with the memories I recalled in childhood, and in their location and significance with the life of William Longespee.
The song has become a sort of talisman now, a sort of theme song for John, who I now believe lived more in the past than I do now and may have known of his previous life as William Longespee.
Probably the best-known version of the song “Scarborough Fair” is the one by Simon and Garfunkel, which I’ve linked to before but since I have readers from all over now who might not have heard it, here it is again. That was the first version I heard and is still one of my favorites.
What I have not mentioned before (and what not everyone seems to notice) is that, entwined within the lyrics of their version, is an antiwar song that makes their version an even more fitting theme song for John.
Starting with the first verse (the song begins with its chorus so it’s from the line about the Cambric shirt) Art Garfunkel sings the winsome old song while Paul Simon sings these lyrics:
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
It’s done in such a way that it almost slips into the background; you hear another set of lyrics but they don’t register immediately, especially if you first hear it in a car with half of its stereo sound no longer working and the other half barely audible, like the old Colt Vista my mother drove.
This is a coincidence, I’m sure, but strangely fitting. These lyrics were there all the time but I only knew of them from about the time I first got a decent set of over-the-ear headphones instead of those awful cheap on-ear units or ear buds (that would have been 2005 or so). I hadn’t really thought about it until this past week, though.