“Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme” runs the old song, suggesting without saying many things. And yet, the refrain touches on something deeply satisfying: favorite smells, favorite tastes. Even as it makes a play for comfortable memories, the singer seems to be hell-bent on tormenting his one-time lover.
He has many impossible devices set up for the task. A shirt with no seams, washed without water, dried on a thorn-bush, etc.
Time passes, and the old laments change meanings as they get retold, resung, and even rewritten.
The gentleman should not kiss and tell, and that advice really should apply to airing all the rest of one’s dirty laundry in public. Not that people follow that advice any more, of course.
They’d often prefer to reinforce the lies they tell themselves through repetition, almost as if they fear the truth would come out if they ceased to believe the comfortable lies.
Today, the seamless shirt can be had with careful application of machine knitting. And the cleaning in a waterless well is commonplace for delicate fabrics. The barren thorn is less clear, of course, but was never all that important to the original, either.
The singer picked up his guitar and sang the old traditional tune, and there was hardly a dry eye in the house. Because despite all the over-thinking, one thing remains true. People fall in and out of love, everyone seems to know someone who felt wronged in the bargain, and the traditional melodies always invoke a maudlin mood.
And then there’s an orange. I don’t know how the orange was supposed to fit, it would not have been common in the English countryside when this melody was first composed. I’m not sure it’s common now. Or that the orange belongs in the song.
Oh, I’m informed that the orange is simply an error, and doesn’t belong, no matter how tasty it is poked all over with cloves and roast alongside the pig, then served with the chicken and all the herbs.
Someday the traditional song may be remembered as including an orange. If so, that might have been my fault.
“Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme” runs the old song, “peel me an orange in one piece and then she’ll be a true love of mine.”