Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes. France: Vols. IXX. 187679.
Translated by John Oxenford
The famous Duke of Marlborough had been dead sixty years, when, in 1781, the nurse of the Dauphin son of Louis XVI. sang, as she rocked her royal charge, this ballad, the naïf and pleasing air of which made a considerable sensation. M. de Chateaubriand, who heard the air sung in the East, was of opinion that it was carried thither in the time of the Crusades. The burlesque words were probably spread about various provinces after the battle of Malplaquet by some of the soldiers of Villars and Boufflers. As early as 1706 verses were composed on Marlborough, which were to be found in the manuscript collection of historical songs (in forty-four volumes), made by M. Maurepas, and deposited in the Royal Library. The nurses song became all the rage at Versailles, whence it reached Paris, and was soon spread over the whole of France. For four or five years nothing was heard but the burden Mironton, Mirontaine. The song was printed upon fans and screens, with an engraving representing the funeral procession of Marlborough, the lady on her tower, the page dressed in black, and so on. This engraving was imitated in all shapes and sizes. It circulated through the streets and villages, and gave the Duke of Marlborough a more popular celebrity than all his victories. Whenever Napoleon mounted his horse to go to battle he hummed the air Marlbrough sen va-t-en guerre. And at St. Helena, shortly before his death, when in the course of a conversation with M. de Las Cases he praised the Duke of Marlborough, the song occurred to his mind, and he said with a smile, which he could not repress, What a thing ridicule is! it fastens upon everything, even victory. He then hummed the air.Dumersan and Ségur.