I think it highly probable that this phrase was popularized by Sir Walter Scott, in Ivanhoe, Ch.XXIX:(near end)
""Our friends," said Wilfred, "will surely not abandon an enterprise so gloriously begun and so happily attained.---O no! I will put my faith in the good knight whose axe hath rent heart-of-oak and bars of iron.---Singular," he again muttered to himself, "if there be two who can do a deed of such derring-do!"