The Battle of Malplaquet, fought on 11 September 1709, was one of the main battles of the War of the Spanish Succession, which opposed the Bourbons of France and Spain against an alliance whose major members were the Habsburg Monarchy, Great Britain, the United Provinces and the Kingdom of Prussia.
Though Britain and her allies suffered double the casualties, it was the French side who backed off at the end of the bloody day, so technically it was counted as a win for Britain. There was even a rumor – though totally false – that the leader of the British squad, the Duke of Marlborough, perished in battle.
Shortly after the battle, someone wrote a folk song about it. The song was called “Marlbrough s’en va-t-en guerre” or “Mort et convoy de l’invincible Marlbrough”, which translates as “Marlborough Has Left For The War” or “The Death And Burial Of The Invincible Marlborough.” It was sung to the tune of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.”
s’en va-t-en guerre,
mironton, mironton, mirontaine, Marlbrough s’en va-t-en guerre, Ne sait quand reviendra.
Il reviendra-z-à Pâques, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, Il reviendra-z-à Pâques, ou à
la Trinité. La Trinité se passe, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, la Trinité se passe, Marlbrough ne revient pas.
Madame à sa tour monte, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, Madame à sa tour monte si haut qu’elle peut monter.
Elle voit venir son page, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, elle voit venir son page, tout de noir habillé.
Beau page, mon beau page, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, beau page, mon beau page, quelles nouvelles apportez?
Aux nouvelles que j’apporte, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, aux nouvelles que j’apporte, vos beaux yeux vont pleurer!
Quittez vos habits roses, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, quittez vos habits roses, et vos satins brodés!
Monsieur Marlbrough est mort. mironton, mironton, mirontaine, Monsieur Marlbrough est mort. Est mort et enterré.
Je l’ai vu porter en terre, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, Je l’ai vu porter en terre, par quatre-z-officiers.
L’un portait sa cuirasse mironton, mironton, mirontaine, l’un portait sa cuirasse l’autre son bouclier.
L’autre portait son grand sabre, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, L’autre portait son grand sabre, et l’autre ne portait rien.
On planta sur sa tombe mironton, mironton, mirontaine, on planta sur sa tombe un beau rosier fleuri.
La cérémonie faite, mironton, mironton, mirontaine, la cérémonie faite chacun s’en fut coucher…
Marlbrook the Prince of Commanders
Is gone to war in Flanders,
His fame is like Alexander’s,
But when will he ever come home?
Mironton, mironton, mirontaine.
Perhaps at Trinity Feast, or
Perhaps he may come at Easter,
Egad! he had better make haste or
We fear he may never come home.
For Trinity Feast is over,
And has brought no news from Dover,
And Easter is pass’d moreover,
And Malbrook still delays.
Milady in her watch-tower
Spends many a pensive hour,
Not knowing why or how her
Dear lord from England stays.
While sitting quite forlorn in
That tower, she spies returning
A page clad in deep mourning,
With fainting steps and slow.
“O page, prithee come faster!
What news do you bring of your master?
I fear there is some disaster,
Your looks are so full of woe.”
“The news I bring fair lady,”
With sorrowful accent said he,
“Is one you are not ready
So soon, alas! to hear.
“But since to speak I’m hurried,”
Added this page, quite flurried,
“Malbrook is dead and buried!”
And here he shed a tear.
“He’s dead! He’s dead as a herring!
For I beheld his berring,
And four officers transferring
His corpse away from the field.
“One officer carried his sabre,
And he carried it not without labour,
Much envying his next neighbour,
Who only bore a shield.
“The third was helmet bearer –
That helmet which in its wearer
Fill’d all who saw it with terror,
And cover’d a hero’s brains.
“Now, having got so far, I
Find that – by the Lord Harry!-
The fourth is left nothing to carry.-
So there the thing remains.”
Mironton, mironton, mirontaine.
The music for Malbrouck can be found in several 18th century and early 19th century books and manuscripts. Email Ray: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy from any of the below sources:
JAMES AIRD – GLASCOW, 1782 “A SELECTION OF … AIRS, ADAPTED TO THE FIFE… VOL. III”` Page 170.
HENRY BECK – LIB. CONGRESS 1784/86 “UNPUBLISHED (FLUTE) MANUSCRIPT” Page 137.
JOHN PRESTON – LONDON, 1796 “ENTIRE, NEW & COMPLEAT INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE FIFE” Page 30.
BENJAMIN CARR – PHILAD. 1796 “EVENING AMUSEMENTS” Page 29.
JOSHUA CUSHING – SALEM, MA 1805 “THE FIFER’S COMPANION” Page 15.
Mieczyslaw Kolinski,”Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre: Seven Canadian Versions of a French Folksong”Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 10,(1978), pp. 1–32
Oxford Dictionary of Music The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. 5th Edition. Copyright © Oxford University Press, 2007.