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Living in the Languedoc:   Central Government:   French National Anthem:   The Marseillaise

On 25th April 1792, Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a Captain of the Engineers in the Rhine Army, was stationed in Strasbourg. France had just declared war on Austria and Prussia and the army was preparing to go to Paris. The Mayor of Strasbourg approached de Lisle about composing a marching tune for this march to Paris and de Lisle composed it during the night. Born in 1760 in Lons-le-Saunier, France.

The song was originally entitled Chant de guerre de l'armeé du Rhin (War Song of the Army of the Rhine). It was first played at a patriotic banquet where it captured everyone's attention with its stirring melody. It became so popular with volunteer army units from Marseilles that it was renamed after those units, coming to be called La Marseillaise. Printed copies of the Marseillaise were given to the revolutionary forces who entered Paris. Singing this song, they marched to the Tuileries on August 10th 1792.

The Marseillaise was accepted as the official national anthem of France on July 14, 1795 by the Convention. It was banned by Napoleon III during the Empire and by Louis XVIII during the Second Restoration of 1815. Napoleon's decision was based on the song's revolutionary character and its dangerous revolutionary association.

In 1830 Napoleon III had to ban it again since it had been brought back by the authorities after the revolution in the July of 1830. It was finally officially restored in 1879.

La Marseillaise was originally divided into seven verses and a chorus. Most people are familiar only with the first verse and the chorus, and the tempo of the song has also been modified. "La Marseillaise" was re-arranged by Hector Berlioz around 1830. From time to time, French political leaders have requested that the song be played in its entirety using its original tempo, slower than the modern version.

Many squares ('places') and roads are named after de L'isle.Rouget de Lisle was neither a political figure nor a famous musician. In fact he was a royalist and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new constitution. He was imprisoned and escaped the guillotine only because of the fact that he had composed the famous song. He died in 1836, having written a number of unremarkable novels and operas. Today he is a national hero, commemorated in road names all over the country.

La Marsaillaise was for a long time the favoured song of western international revolutionaries, but was superseded by the Internationale ("The Red Flag"). The Marsaillaise was banned in Vichy France and German occupied areas during World War II. Merely singing it was regarded an act of resistance. Since then the anthem has become controversial in France because of its lyrics. Some consider the French National anthem to be militaristic and xenophobic, and propositions have been made from time to time to change the lyrics or drop the song altogether .

Here is the full text of all seven verses of the Marseillaise in French, with an English translation:

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé !
L'étendard sanglant est levé !
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils et nos compagnes !
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Bloody standard is raised
Can you hear in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers?
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of our sons and consorts!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!
Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ?
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ?
Français, pour nous, ah! quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !
What do they want this horde of slaves
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
For whom these vile chains
These long-prepared irons?
These long-prepared irons?
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What methods must be taken?
It is we they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!
Quoi ! ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
What! These foreign cohorts
Would make laws in our homes!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would cut down our proud warriors
Would cut down our proud warriors
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brow would yield under the yoke
Vile despots would have themselves be
The masters of our destinies!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!
Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides,
L'opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix !
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix !
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !
Tremble, tyrants and traitors
The shame of all good men
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their just reward
Will finally receive their just reward
Against you, everyone is a soldier,
If they fall, our young heroes,
France will bear new ones
Ready to join the fight against you!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!
Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Epargnez ces tristes victimes,
A regret s'armant contre nous.
A regret s'armant contre nous.
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !
Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors
Bear or hold back your wounds!
Spare these sad victims,
Who regret to take up arms against us.
Who regret to take up arms against us.
But not these bloody despots,
These accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who pitilessly,
Ripped out their mothers' wombs!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!
Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs !
Combats avec tes défenseurs !
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents !
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
Sacred love of the fatherland,
Drive and support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty,
Struggle with your defenders.
Struggle with your defenders.
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your male tone
So that your agonising enemies
See your triumph and our glory!
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!
Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus.
Et la trace de leurs vertus.
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre !
We shall enter into the pit
When our elders will have gone,
There we shall find their ashes
And the mark of their virtues.
And the mark of their virtues.
Much less jealous of surviving them
Than of sharing their coffins,
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or joining them.
    Aux armes, citoyens !
    Formez vos bataillons !
    Marchons ! marchons !
    Qu'un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons !
    To arms, citizens,
    Form in battalions,
    March, march!
    Let impure blood
    Water our furrows!

The French national anthem is one of the sybols of sovereignty mentioned in article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958: "L'hymne national est la  « Marseillaise »."

 

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Music to the Marseillaise
Words of La Marseillaise