Why, Soldiers, Why
Wolfe's Song

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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This song was printed on broadsides in the late 1700s and early and mid 1800s under the title How Stands the Glass Around. It appeared in The Convivial Songster (1782).* According to one source it was part of the ballad opera The Patron (1729).**

According to Burl Ives, legend has it that General Wolfe sang this song the night before his victory and his death at the Battle of Quebec in 1759. It became known throughout the colonies as Wolfe's Song.***

A broadside named The Duke of Marlborough's Delight or His honours cordial advice to his fellow soldiers, (to a new tune) was printed in 1712. The words are very similar to these and this is doubtless a variant of that ballad. The Duke of Marlborough's Delight can be found at the Broadside Ballads Online.

How stands the glass around?
For shame you take no care, my boys,
How stands the glass around?
Let wine and mirth abound;
The trumpet sound,
The colors they do fly my boys;
To fight, kill or wound;
As you would be found,
Contented with hard fare, my boys
On the cold ground

O why, soldiers why?
O why should we be melancholy boys,
O why soldiers why?
Whose bus'ness is to die;
What? sighing? Fye!
Drink on, drown fear, be jolly boys;
'Tis he, you or I, wet, hot, cold or dry;
We're always bound to follow boys,
And scorn to fly.

'Tis but vain;
I mean not to upbraid you boys,
'Tis but vain;
For a soldier to complain;
Should next campaign,
Send us to him that made us boys;
We're free from pain,
But should we remain,
A bottle and kind landlady
Cures all again.

Related Links
***The Burl Ives Song Book
See Bibliography for full information.
Also from **The Mudcat Cafe
and *Steve Roud's Broadside Index