A short scene that might have taken place in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensiblity, based on this song.
“The fifteenth day of July, with glist’ning spear and shield,
A famous fight in Flanders was foughten in the field:
The most courageous officers were the English captains three,
But the bravest in the battle was brave Lord Willoughby!”
Elinor lifted up her eyes from her book. Marianne did not meet her gaze, but she sang on unabashedly.
“Stand to it, noble pike-men, and look you round about;
And shoot you right, you bow-men, and we will keep them out;
You musket and calliver men, do you prove true to me,
I’ll be the foremost man in fight,” says brave Lord Willoughby!
And then the bloody enemy they fiercely did assail,
They fought it out most furiously not doubting to prevail,
The wounded men on both sides fell most piteous for to see,
Yet nothing could the courage quell of brave Lord Willoughby!”
Sweetly Marianne sang of the hardships of the brave soldiers, their fatigue, their very near defeat, warded off only by their devotion, which granted them the courage to take up arms once more.
“The sharp steel-pointed arrows and bullets thick did fly;
Then did our valiant soldiers charge on most furiously,
Which made the Spaniards waver, they thought it best to flee,
They feared the stout behaviour of brave Lord Willoughby.
Then quoth the Spanish general: ‘Come let us march away,
I fear we shall be spoiled all, if that we longer stay,
for yonder comes Lord Willoughby, with courage fierce and fell:
He will not give one inch of way for all the Devils in Hell.’
And then the fearful enemy was quickly put to flight,
Our men pursued courageously and rout their forces quite,
And at last they gave a shout, which echoed through the sky,
“God and St. George for England!” the conquerors did cry.”
The colour rising into her cheeks, making her face even more lovely than it always was, Marianne sang the words of the Queen:
“This news was brought to England will all the speed might be,
And then our gracious Queen was told of this same victory,
Oh, this is brave Lord Willoughby my love that ever won,
Of all the Lord of honour, tis he great deeds hath done.”
Elinor listened gravely, her hands resting in her lap, but Margaret fidgeted in her seat with enjoyment. If she had had a voice suited to it she would have sung with Marianne as she triumphantly concluded the final verse:
“Then courage, noble English men, and never be dismayed,
If that we be but one to ten we will not be afraid
To fight with foreign enemies, and set our Country free,
And thus I end the bloody bout of brave Lord Willoughby!”
Marianne’s voice rang out joyfully as the last tones of the piano faded away.
“What a mixture of pride and envy my namesake inspires in me at this moment.”
Elinor started and turned to see Willoughby standing in the doorway, hat and gloves in hand. Marianne’s cheeks flushed, but if Elinor expected her to avert her eyes in embarrassment she was sorely mistaken. Her eyes shone, fixed on Willoughby with even more than their usual brilliance.
“If the song gives you more pain than it does pleasure,” she said. “It shall be sung by me no more.”
“What?” Willoughby cried, approaching the instrument. “Do not plague my heart with such threats. To think that my actions or feelings could ever influence your enjoyment in your art, how would I bear such responsibility?”
“You would do well to bear it all the same,” she replied. “As my sister will tell us both that responsibility is something placed upon one, regardless of one’s choice.”
“Your sister is wise, as I’ve often remarked,” Willoughby said, glancing laughingly at Elinor, who was hiding her discomfort behind a reserved smile. “And this being the case I will feel no scruple to tell you that if it truly were up to me how you direct your art, that my wish is for you to sing this ballad a thousand times over, for anyone who would hear it.”
“A thousand times over?” Marianne exclaimed in high spirits. “Then I better begin immediately.”
And she put her fingers to the keys of her piano forte once more to begin the song anew. Willoughby took his usual chair beside the instrument and listened with a smile on his face. Elinor sighed when looking at them, Willoughby’s presence forcing her to postpone her resolve to speak to Marianne about certain aspects of her present behaviour. She contented herself with a chiding look at Margaret, who was fairly bouncing up and down in her seat with repressed mirth. In spite of all her concerns on propriety however, Elinor could not quite repress a smile when she looked at Marianne. For her sister played so very beautifully and she looked so very lovely, being listened to with such attention by the man her sister knew she loved so ardently.
The lyrics I (partially) used here come from the website “Lukehistory” with this explanation:
An Elizabethan ballad concerning a battle in the Low Countries in the 1590’s. The tune was quite popular at the time and Dowland even wrote a lute piece based upon it. This text is drawn from Percy’s, Reliquairies of English Poetry (1765).