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Brave Wolfe

  • Trad

    One Monday morning as we set sail
    The wind did blow a pleasant gale
    To fight the French it was our intent
    Through smoke and fire
    And it was a dark and a gloomy night

    The French were landed on mountains high
    While we poor souls in the valley lie
    Cheer up my lads General Wolfe did say
    Brave lads of honour
    Old England she shall win the day

    The very first broadside we gave to them
    We wounded a hundred and fifty men
    Well done me lads General Wolfe did say
    Brave lads of honour
    Old England she shall win the day

    The very next broadside they gave to us
    They wounded our general in his right breast
    And from his breast precious blood did flow
    Like any fountain
    And all his men were filled with woe

    Here's a hundred guineas all in bright gold
    Take it, part it for my love's quite cold
    And use your men as you did before
    Your soldiers own
    And they will fight for ever more

    And when to England you do return
    Tell all my friends I'm dead and gone
    And tell my tender old mother dear
    That I am dead oh
    And never shall see her no more

    As sung by The Watersons

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1959:] [A] song celebrating the hero of Quebec, often found in America though not reported in Britain (Brave Wolfe is not to be confused with Bold General Wolfe, which is fairly common in England). (Penguin Book of English Folk Songs 111)

  • [1966:] Major-General James Wolfe died romantically young in sufficiently striking circumstances to ensure him immortality as a folk hero. He was killed in his thirty-second year at the very moment of victory during the great battle of the Heights of Abraham in Canada, which ultimately secured Canada for Britain. In America, the backwoods bards paid tribute to the sweetheart he left grieving for him in the haunting ballad where she is made to say, 'Strange news is come to town, strange news is carried, Some say my love is dead ... ' in an echo of the English lovesong about the faithless blacksmith. But, less sentimental, English ballad makers concentrated their attention on Wolfe as a military hero, on his warm human regard for the men who served under him and on his patriotic fervour.

    Legends clustered about his death. It is said that, after he was wounded for the third time on that bloody day on September 13, 1759, he said to the two grenadiers whom at last he allowed to assist him to the rear: 'Don't grieve for me. I shall be happy in a few minutes.' When news of the victory reached him, he said 'Now I am contented,' and then he died, like a noble Roman. - Hammond collected a grand version of this widely known English song in Dorset and on this the Watersons have based a four voice interpretation. (A. L. Lloyd, notes 'The Watersons')

  • [1973:] There are two well-known songs associated with Wolfe (apart from Why Soldiers Why, which he is reputed to have sung on the eve of the Battle of Quebec). This is the best known of the two around the clubs, mainly because of the recording by the Watersons. Hammond got versions from two sources and Alfred Williams collected it in Hartford. There's a recording of Bob Scara singing it in his local pub (complete with chairman hammering the table for order after each chorus) on Topic 12T196. (Dallas, Wars 122)

  • [1977:] James Wolfe was born in 1727 and commissioned into the army at the age of fourteen. In 1759 as a major-general he was sent by William Pitt to Canada in command of an expeditionary force whose task was to take Quebec. The ascent of the Heights of Abraham, the defeat of the French on the plain before Quebec, and the death of Wolfe in the hour of victory, are almost as much part of the national consciousness as the Nelsonian legend. Indeed, there are many similarities between the two heroes. Both were small in stature and ill in health. Both were determined, able, and at times unorthodox. Both were fatally wounded in the hour of their greatest success and died after being assured by subordinates that victory was theirs. Both were held in deep affection by their men. Wolfe was indeed 'the soldier's friend'. He was acutely aware of the needs of his men, and he never neglected their welfare. [...] 'unlike most generals', writes his most recent biographer, 'he treated the common soldier as a creature with a mind'.

    One of the many tales which grew up round Wolfe's death is that the fatal shot, the third wound he sustained on the day, was fired by a former British sergeant fighting on the French side. This man had deserted after being reduced to the ranks for striking a private soldier. He was captured after the battle and condemned to death, and shortly before being hanged he confessed to shooting Wolfe as an act of personal revenge. [Interesting parallel with Bonnie Dundee.] (Palmer, Soldier 149f)

  • [1981:] An example of the 'news ballad'. The Battle of Abraham Heights, Quebec, took place on 13 September 1759, and Brave Wolfe was apparently - since it survived orally for nearly 150 years - the most popular of at least four broadsides printed to commemorate Wolfe's death. According to the history books, it is not a very accurate account of the battle, but it speaks of the national regard in which Wolfe - killed in battle at the age of 31 - was held. (Michael Pollard, notes 'Folk Songs', Topic Sampler 6)

  • [1982:] I know that military subjects are generally studied and taught by examples from the past [by the anecdote, for instance, of] how King George [III], when told that General Wolfe was mad, replied, "I wish he would bite some other of my generals". (Tuchman, Practicing History 281)

  • [1988:] [It] seems that a little time was needed for the full impact of his death to register. The Siege of Quebec (1759) records his death, together with that of Monkton, but gives pride of place to Brigadier Townsend, Wolfe's subordinate. As it began to sink in, the magnitude of the victory made a powerful impression, however, as did Wolfe's death in the hour of triumph. [...] The best known of the Wolfe songs, Bold General Wolfe [Brave Wolfe], was still "vastly popular ... throughout England" at the end of the nineteenth century, according to Baring-Gould, and a version was discovered in oral circulation in Canada as recently as 1957. (Palmer, History 274f)

  • [1998:] [The Battle of Quebec] took place on September 13, 1759. It proved to be a decisive event in the history of North America and perhaps the world. In 1755 the Acadians had been driven out of Nova Scotia and a year later the Seven Years War broke out in Europe and elsewhere. Britain bumbled around early and was not doing very well. But by 1759 Louisville, Fort Frontenac & Fort Duquesne had been taken by Britain. Montcalm had pulled back to Quebec for a last stand. The British fleet under Wolfe had laid siege to Quebec from below on the St Lawrence River. British scouts finally discovered a narrow way up the cliffs to the city and on the night of Sept 12 about 5000 men secretly took small boats down the river and scaled the cliffs to the Plains of Abraham. The battle was over quickly and both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed. [...] young Wolfe had become engaged to Kathrine Lowther shortly before sailing to America. (rich,, 21 May)

  • [1998:] I was told at university by a professor of Canadian history that the British had been trying to figure out for some weeks how they would get up the cliffs at Quebec. (They were opposite the Quebec City, where the city of Levis now is.) Some officers went for a walk and noticed women washing clothes in the river opposite. They watched how the women got back up the hill, and it was this path that they used to scale the heights. It was in fact defended, but the first troops up the path were led by a Scotsman who could speak French without an accent. He tricked the sentries into believing that French troops were coming up the path, and the next morning the British were outside the walls of the city.

    (When the Americans attacked Quebec some years later they had no such luck. They attacked in a blinding snowstorm and were easily chased away. They did capture Montreal, where they introduced the first printing press into Canada.) (Tim Jaques,, 23 May)

  • [2000:] General Wolfe [...] had fought against the MacDonalds in an earlier conflict but relied on them to take the Plains of Abraham: "They are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall." Wolfe regarded the Highlanders as his secret enemies, and was furious at their insistence on carrying their wounded from the field when ordered to retreat. (Adam Mars-Jones, review of Alistair MacLeod, 'No Great Mischief', Observer, 23 Jul)

  • For a contemporary account of the Battle of Abraham Heights see Abraham or

  • See also Brave Wolf Brave Wolf - Ian & Sylvia version Plains of Abraham

Quelle: England

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