Why Soldiers Why?

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WHY, SOLDIERS, WHY? AKA "How Stands the Glass Around," "Wolfe's Song," "Duke of Berwick's March." English, March and Song (4/4 time). F Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The tune appears in The Patron, a ballad opera, in 1729 and also in The Convivial Songster (1782) and Vocal Music (1775) where it is called "A Soldier's Song." It was popular with English soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars, but associated with General Wolfe and the capture of Québec in 1759. Erroneously reported to have been sung by Wolfe the night before he was killed in battle on the Plains of Abraham (Winstock, 1970). The words to the song begin:

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.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Times, vol. 2), 1859; pp. 134-135.

Recorded sources:




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