Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre
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"Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" or "Malbrook 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 a popular folk song in French.
The 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, the bloodiest battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. It tells how Marlborough's wife, awaiting his return from battle, is given the news of her husband's death. It also tells that he was buried and that a nightingale sang over his grave.
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. Beaumarchais used the tune in his 1778 play The Marriage of Figaro for a despairing love song for Cherubino. In 1780 it became very popular. 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 wet-nursed by a peasant named Geneviève Poitrine. The nurse, whilst rocking the royal cradle, sang "Marlborough s'en va-t-en guerre" and  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. Johann von Goethe came to hate Marlborough simply on account of the prevalence of the tune he encountered during travels in France. It also became popular in Spain due to the Bourbon dynasty's influence on Spanish nobility. The name of Marlborough was modified to an easier to pronounce Mambrú. It was sung by children while playing Hopscotch (Rayuela). The Spanish guitarist and composer Fernando Sor (1778–1839) created a series of variations for guitar on the theme. It then spread to Latin America.
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.
The melody also became widely popular in the United Kingdom. By the mid-19th century it was being sung with the words "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", often at all-male social gatherings. By 1862, it was already familiar in America.
This section appears to contradict itself.September 2020)(
Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre,
Marlbrook the Prince of Commanders
In popular culture
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The song is one of several contemporary tunes that are played by the musical box of the Negress head clock, made in Paris in 1784. Rita Dove references the song and the clock in her 2009 poem "Ode on a Negress Head Clock, with Eight Tunes".
Goethe references the song in the "Zweite Elegie" of his Roman Elegies (1786–1788). Heinrich Heine then mentions Goethe's reference in his "Zweiter Brief aus Berlin" (16 March 1822) as example of a catchy tune.
The song is referenced in Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1866 novel Crime and Punishment, where Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova tries to make her children sing the popular Russian version in public shortly before her death.
An operetta titled Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre was produced in Paris in December 1867 with Suzanne Lagier. One act each was written by Georges Bizet, Léo Delibes, Émile Jonas and isidore Legouix (see Classical music written in collaboration).
The song is referenced in Leo Tolstoy's 1869 novel War and Peace, where Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky sings the first verse of the song to his son Prince Andrei after hearing Russia's military strategy (Part One, chapter XXIII).
The song is referenced in Vladimir Nabokov's 1969 novel Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, in chapter 40; Blanche hums it while Lucette and Ada, observed by Van, practice drawing flowers in one of the nursery parlors.
The song is referenced in Patrick O'Brian's 1979 novel The Fortune of War in chapter 8 when Captain Jack Aubrey hears it being sung by French soldiers in a bar in a hotel from which Aubrey helps Stephen Maturin and Diana Villiers escape.
- French Wikisource has original text related to this article: Le Mariage de Figaro/Acte II
- Carlson, Marvin (2003). The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine. University of Michigan Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780472089376.
- Le Petit-Trianon et Marie-Antoinette, Éditions Télémaque, by Élisabeth Reynaud, April 2010, p. 288, ISBN 978-2-7533-0105-4
- "Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre, ou Mort et convoi de l'invincible Malbrough", antiwarsongs.org
- Wills, William Henry (1860). Poets' Wit and Humour. Ward, Lock and Tyler. p. 288.
- The Times (London, England), 28 March 1826, p. 2: "The Power of Music. A visiting foreigner, trying to recall the address of his lodgings in Marlborough Street, hums the tune to a London cabman: he immediately recognises it as 'Malbrook'."
- The song may have featured in an "extravaganza" given at the Princess theatre in London at Easter 1846, during which fairies hold a moonlight meeting: "...the meeting closes with a song of thanks to Robin Goodfellow (Miss Marshall), who had occupied the chair,...and who is assured that "he's a jolly good fellow." "Princess's." The Times [London, England] 14 Apr. 1846: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 October 2012.
- The Times reprinted an article from Punch describing a drunken speech given at a (fictional) public meeting. The speech ends: "Zshenl'men, here's all your vehgood healts! I beggapard'n – here's my honangal'n fren's shjolly goo' health! "For he's a jolly good fellow, &c (Chorus by the whole of the company, amid which the right hon. orator tumbled down.)" "The After Dinner Speech At The Improvement Club." The Times, [London, England] 23 Mar. 1854: 10. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 1 October 2012.
- Review of a piano recital: "As a finale he performed for the first time, a burlesque on the French air, 'Marlbrook', better known to the American student of harmony as "He's a jolly good fellow". The New York Times, 4 October 1862
- Rita, Dove (2009). "Ode on a Negress Head Clock, with Eight Tunes". Kenyon Review. 31 (2): 156–158. JSTOR 27653951. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
- German Wikisource has original text related to this article: Elegien (Goethe)
- Heinrich Heine – Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe der Werke, vol. 6, Manfred Windfuhr (ed), Hoffman und Campe, p. 21
- Kolinski, Mieczyslaw (1978). " 'Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre': Seven Canadian Versions of a French Folksong". Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council. 10: 1–32. doi:10.2307/767345. JSTOR 767345.
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