Simon & Garfunkel – Scarborough Fair / Canticle

Scarborough Fair / Canticle – Simon & Garfunkel 

  • Activity type: vocabulary (herbs), listening for specific words, discussion.
  • Level: Intermediate / Upper-Intermediate. 
  • Note: Scarborough is a small town on the coast of England. The “Scarborough Fair” was a popular gathering in medieval times, attracting traders and entertainers from all over the country. The fair lasted 45 days and started every August 15th. (
  • The origins of the song can be traced to 1670 – there is a detailed history here.
  • There are various interpretations of the lyrics (see here), in which the singer sets impossible tasks for his potential lover.
  • Each of the herbs used in the refrain is said to represent a virtue – this lesson was created as part of a project on herbal medicine.
  • Paul Simon learned the song from English folk singer Martin Carthy in 1965 and recorded it accompanied by his own Canticle (it is not, in fact, a canticle!). The song was used in the soundtrack to the 1967 film The Graduate and was subsequently released as a single.
  • Your students might enjoy the Muppets version, without Canticle – this video is below.

Worksheet written by Prof. Marella Corbani, Magenta

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