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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This was printed on numerous broadsides during the mid 1800s as The Duke of Marlborough or Marlborough. Marlborough was the subject of many broadsides, several of these can be viewed at the Broadside Ballads Online.

The subject of the ballad is John Churchill, Duke of Marlborogh (1650-1722). Marlborough served James II in the Netherlands, and was knighted by James for his service. He later allied himself with William of Orange. However, during William's reign Marlborough corresponded with James, and lost favor. He was created Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne for his victories over the French during the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1711 he was falsely accused of curruption and forced to flee the country. He returned and his estates were restored in 1714 when George I became King.

According to Barrett, the last line "probably represents popular belief in the integrity of the hero."

Ye generals all and champions bold,
Who take delight in the field,
That knock down palaces and castle walls,
But who to death must yield;
Lo! I must go and face that foe,
Without my sword and shield,
I always fought with merry men,
But now to death must yield.

I am an Englishman by birth,
And Marlborough is my name,
In Devonshire I drew my breath,
That place of noted fame;
I was beloved by all my men,
By King and Prince likewise,
Though many towns I often took,
I did the world surprise.

King Charles the Second I did serve,
To face our foes in France,
And at the field of Ramilies,
We boldly did advance;
The sun was down, the moon did shine,
So loudly I did cry-
"Fight on, my boys, for fair England.
We'll conquer or we'll die."

And when we gained the victory,
And bravely kept the field,
We took a host of prisoners,
And forced them to yield,
That very day my horse was shot,
All by a musket ball,
As I was mounting up again,
My aide-de-camp did fall.

Now on a bed of sickness prone,
I am resigned to die;
Yet, generals and champions bold,
Stand firm as well as I;
Unto your colours stand you true,
And fight with courage bold,
I have led my men through fire and smoke,
But ne'er was bribed with gold.

Related Links
From English Folk-Songs
See Bibliography for full information.
Also from Steve Roud's Broadside Index.