At first, “Scarborough Fair” didn’t have parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme.
It had something like this:
“The Elfin Knight sits on a hill
Ba, ba, ba, lilli, ba
He blows his Horn both lowd and shril,
the wind hath blown my Plaid awa.”
“Scarborough Fair” is commonly thought to be a grandchild of a 1670s English ballad called “The Elfin Knight.” As the song traveled across land and time, words and chords were transformed and reinvented.
It’s common in folk music. As Pete Seeger told NPR:
“My father used to say, ‘A folk song printed in a folksong book is a little like a picture of a bird in flight in a bird book.’ You knew the bird was flying, flapping its wings before that picture was taken and it kept on flapping its wings. Similarly, the song in the book was changing before it was written down and kept on changing after it was written down.”
It’s common in people, too. We are creatures in flight, capable of transformation and reinvention. It’s an epic capability.
If we own it, really own it, we can’t settle for a static version of ourselves. We can’t cut short our flight by saying, “I’m not the kind of person who-” or equating “I haven’t done it” with “I cannot.” Because if we buy into the snapshot of ourselves, we’re stuck with the Elfin Knight, never to get to the parsley.
Transformation isn’t always smooth. Reinvention isn’t always safe. But we’re here to be epic. And there’s nothing static about that.
Snapshots are nice. Wings are better.