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Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre ("Marlborough Has Left for the War" also known as Mort et convoi de l'invincible Malbrough, "The Death and Burial of the Invincible Marlbrough") is one of the most popular folk songs in the French language. This burlesque lament on the death of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) was written on a false rumour of that event after the Battle of Malplaquet in 1709. It tells how Marlborough's wife, awaiting his return from battle, is given the news of her husband's death.

The melody probably predates the song's lyrics, and it is the same tune used by two other songs, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and "The Bear Went Over the Mountain."

For years it was only known traditionally, and does not appear among the many anecdotic songs printed in France during the middle of the 18th century. However, suddenly around the year 1780, it burst out afresh and became the rage. For instance, the tune concludes a Sonata (in D-major) for Viola d'Amore and Viola composed by Carl Stamitz in 1780 while in Paris. And it happened that when Louis XVII of France was born in 1785 (son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and heir to the French throne) he was nursed by a peasant nicknamed Madame Poitrine. The nurse, whilst rocking the royal cradle, sang Marlborough s'en va-t-en guerre and the dauphin, it is said, opened his eyes at the name of the great general. The name, the simplicity of the words, and the melodiousness of the tune, interested the queen, and she frequently sang it. Everybody repeated it after her, including the king. The song was sung in the state apartments of Versailles; in the kitchens and in the stables - it became immensely popular.

From the court it was adopted by the tradespeople of Paris, and it passed from town to town, and country to country. It became as popular in England as in France. It is said that a French gentleman wishing, when in London, to be driven to Marlborough Street, had totally forgotten its name; but on humming the tune, the coachman drove him to the proper address with no other direction. Johann von Goethe, who travelled in France during the same period, was so annoyed with the universal concert of Marlborough, that he took a hatred to the duke who was the innocent cause of the musical epidemic.[1]

The popularity of the song was such that it gave its name to fashions, to silks, to head-dresses, carriages and soups. The subject of the song was printed on fire-screens, on fans and on porcelain; it was embroidered on tapestries and engraven on toys and keepsakes. The rage endured for many years, slowly fading after the French Revolution, although, it is said that Napoleon liked to hum the tune - for instance, when crossing the Memel (June 1812) at the beginning of his fatal Russian campaign.

Ludwig van Beethoven used the tune in his musical work Wellington's Victory, which, like Tchaikovsky's later 1812 Overture, features real cannon shots.

The song is referenced in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment, where Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova tries to make her children sing the popular Russian version of the song in public shortly before her death.

An operetta produced in Paris in December 1867 borrowed the title of the song. One act each was written by Georges Bizet, Léo Delibes, Émile Jonas and Legouix (see Classical music written in collaboration).

The song has been translated into several languages. The English version shown below was written by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 19th Century.


Original French Spanish German English
Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,

mironton, mironton, mirontaine,
Malbrough 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,
Malbrough 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 Malbrough est mort.
mironton, mironton, mirontaine,
Monsieur Malbrough 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...

Mambrú se fue a la guerra,

¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué pena!,
Mambrú se fue a la guerra,
no sé cuando vendrá.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
no sé cuando vendrá.

Si vendrá por la Pascua,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué gracia!,
si vendrá por la Pascua,
o por la Trinidad.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
o por la Trinidad.

La Trinidad se pasa,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué guasa!,
la Trinidad se pasa
Mambrú no viene ya.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
Mambrú no viene ya.

Por allí viene un paje,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué traje!,
por allí viene un paje,
¿qué noticias traerá?
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
¿qué noticias traerá?

Las noticias que traigo,
¡del dolor, del dolor me caigo!
las noticias que traigo
son tristes de contar,
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
son tristes de contar.

Que Mambrú ya se ha muerto,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué entuerto!,
que Mambrú ya se ha muerto,
lo llevan a enterrar.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
lo llevan a enterrar.

En caja de terciopelo,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué duelo!,
en caja de terciopelo,
y tapa de cristal.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
y tapa de cristal.

Y detrás de la tumba,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué turba!,
y detrás de la tumba,
tres pajaritos van.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
tres pajaritos van.

Cantando el pío-pío,
¡qué dolor, qué dolor, qué trío!,
cantando el pío-pío,
cantando el pío-pa.
Do-re-mi, do-re-fa,
cantando el pío-pa.

Marlbrough zieht aus zum Kriege,

Die Fahne läßt er wehn;
Da reicht zum Kampf und Siege
Die Hand ihm Prinz Eugen.

Sie mustern ihre Truppen
Bei Höchstädt auf dem Plan:
"Gut stehn im Brett die Puppen,
Frisch auf, wir greifen an."

Und wie sie mit dem Haufen
Dem Feind entgegen ziehn,
Da kommt gejagt mit Schnaufen
Ein Hofkurier aus Wien.

Er springt in buntem Staate
Vom Roß und neigt sich tief:
"Vom hohen Kriegshofrate,
Durchlaucht'ger, hier ein Brief!"

Der kleine Kapuziner
Schiebt in die Brust ihn sacht:
"Der Herrn ergebner Diener,
Das les' ich nach der Schlacht.

Jetzt ist kein Zaudern nütze,
Jetzt heißt es dran und drauf!
Schon spielen die Geschütze
Tallards zum Kampf uns auf.

Er wirft sich auf die Franzen,
Marlbrough bleibt nicht zurück;
Bei Höchstädt an den Schanzen
Das ward ihr Meisterstück.

Wohl krachts von Wall und Turme,
Wohl sinken Roß und Mann,
Doch vorwärts geht's im Sturme,
Die Feldherrn hoch voran.

Im dichten Kugelregen,
Den Degen in der Hand,
Erklimmen sie verwegen
Des Lagers steilen Rand.

Da packt den Feind ein Grausen,
Da weicht er fern und nah,
Und hinter ihm mit Brausen
Ertönt's: "Viktoria!"

Und wie des Kaisers Reiter
Nachrasseln Stoß auf Stoß,
Da frommt kein Haltruf weiter,
Geworfen ist das Los.

Ersiegte Fahnen prangen
Zweihundert an der Zahl,
Man bringt daher gefangen,
Tallard, den General.

Doch abends als die Flaschen,
Im Kreis ums Feuer gehn,
Da zieht aus seiner Taschen
Sein Brieflein Prinz Eugen.

Studiert's und reicht's dem Briten,
Der blickt hinein und lacht:
"Parbleu! die Herrn verbitten
In Wien sich jede Schlacht.

Nur kurze Retirade
Sauvier'uns meint der Wisch:
Erlesner Senf! Nur schade,
Für diesmal Senf nach Tisch!"

Malbrook 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.
Mironton etc.

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.

Literal translation

As Longfellow's English translation above is far from literal, a more literal and unversified translation of the French is provided below. The recurring refrain "mironton, mironton, mirontaine" ("rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat-tat") is omitted.

  1. Marlborough has left for the war / Nobody knows when he will come back.
  2. He will come back at Easter / Or on Trinity Sunday.
  3. Trinity Sunday goes by. / Marlborough does not return.
  4. My lady climbs up her tower / As high as she can climb.
  5. She sees her page coming / All clothed in black.
  6. "Good page, my good page / What news do you bring?"
  7. "At the news that I bring / Your pretty eyes will start crying!
  8. "Take off your pink clothing / and your embroidered satins!
  9. "My lord Marlborough is dead; / he is dead and buried.
  10. "I have seen him borne to the grave / by four officers.
  11. "One of them carried his breastplate / another his shield.
  12. "Another carried his great sabre / and the last carried nothing.
  13. "On his tomb was planted / a beautiful flowering rosebush.
  14. "When the ceremony was over / Everyone went to bed."


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


  1. ^ W. H. Wills Poets' Wit and Humour Ward, Lock and Tyler

External links



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