"La Marseillaise"[a] is the national anthem of France. The song was written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg after the declaration of war by France against Austria, and was originally titled "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin"[b] ("War Song for the Army of the Rhine").

La Marseillaise
English: The Marseillaise
The Marseillais volunteers departing, sculpted on the Arc de Triomphe

National anthem of France
Also known asChant de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin (English: War song for the Army of the Rhine)
LyricsClaude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, 1792
MusicClaude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Adopted14 July 1795
Audio sample
"La Marseillaise" (instrumental)

The French National Convention adopted it as the First Republic's anthem in 1795. The song acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching to the capital. The song is the first example of the "European march" anthemic style. The anthem's evocative melody and lyrics have led to its widespread use as a song of revolution and its incorporation into many pieces of classical and popular music.

History edit

Rouget de Lisle, composer of "La Marseillaise", sings the song for the first time at the home of Dietrich, Mayor of Strasbourg (1849 painting by Isidore Pils, Musée historique de Strasbourg).

As the French Revolution continued, the monarchies of Europe became concerned that revolutionary fervor would spread to their countries. The War of the First Coalition was an effort to stop the revolution, or at least contain it to France. Initially, the French army did not distinguish itself, and Coalition armies invaded France. On 25 April 1792, Baron Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich, the Mayor of Strasbourg and Worshipful Master of the local Masonic lodge, asked his Freemason guest Rouget de Lisle to compose a song "that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat".[1][2] That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin"[3] (English: "War Song for the Army of the Rhine"), and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian freemason in French service from Cham.[4] A plaque on the building on Place Broglie where De Dietrich's house once stood commemorates the event.[5] De Dietrich was executed the next year during the Reign of Terror.[6]

The melody soon became the rallying call to the French Revolution and was adopted as "La Marseillaise" after the melody was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés in French) from Marseille by the end of May. These fédérés were making their entrance into the city of Paris on 30 July 1792 after a young volunteer from Montpellier called François Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseille, and the troops adopted it as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille.[3] A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoléon Bonaparte and died in Egypt at age 28.[7]

The song's lyrics reflect the invasion of France by foreign armies (from Prussia and Austria) that was under way when it was written. Strasbourg itself was attacked just a few days later. The invading forces were repulsed from France following their defeat in the Battle of Valmy. As the vast majority of Alsatians did not speak French, a German version ("Auf, Brüder, auf dem Tag entgegen") was published in October 1792 in Colmar.[8]

Belgian singer Jean Noté singing "La Marseillaise" in 1907

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France's first anthem.[9] It later lost this status under Napoleon I, and the song was banned outright by Louis XVIII and Charles X, being re-instated only briefly after the July Revolution of 1830.[10] During Napoleon I's reign, "Veillons au salut de l'Empire" was the unofficial anthem of the regime, and in Napoleon III's reign, it was "Partant pour la Syrie", but the government brought back the iconic anthem in an attempt to motivate the French people during the Franco-Prussian War. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, "La Marseillaise" was recognised as the anthem of the international revolutionary movement; as such, it was adopted by the Paris Commune in 1871, albeit with new lyrics under the title "La Marseillaise de la Commune". Eight years later, in 1879, it was restored as France's national anthem, and has remained so ever since.[10]

Music edit

Several musical antecedents have been cited for the melody:

Other attributions (the credo of the fourth Mass of Holtzmann of Mursberg)[17] have been refuted.[18]

Text edit

Generally only the first verse is sung.

Original text English translation

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !

Refrain :
𝄆 Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons ! 𝄇

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter!
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !


Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! Ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! Par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !


Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides
L'opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis)
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 !


Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
À regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !


Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents,
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !


Couplet des enfants:[c]
Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus,
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre.


Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us stands tyranny
Her bloody standard has been raised, (repeated)
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They come right into your arms
To tear the throats of your sons, your wives!

𝄆 To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's March, let's march!
So that an impure
blood waters our furrows! 𝄇

What does this horde of slaves
Of traitors and invented kings want?
For whom have these vile chains
These irons, been long prepared? (repeated)
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What furious action it must arouse!
It is for us they dare plan
A return to the old slavery!


What! Foreign cohorts!
Would make the law in our homes!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would strike down our proud warriors! (repeated)
Great God! By chained hands
Our brows would yield under the yoke
Vile despots would themselves become
The masters of our destinies!


Tremble, tyrants and you traitors
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their prize! (repeated)
Everyone is a soldier to combat you,
If they fall, our young heroes,
Will be produced anew from the ground,
Ready to fight against you!


Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Bear or hold back your blows!
Spare those sorry victims,
For regretfully arming against us (repeated)
But these bloodthirsty despots
These accomplices of Bouillé
All these tigers who, mercilessly,
Tear apart their mother's breast!


Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Lead, support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished Liberty
Fight with your defenders! (repeated)
Under our flags may victory
Hurry to your manly accents
So that your expiring enemies
See your triumph and our glory!


Children's verse:
We shall enter the (military) career
When our elders are no longer there
There we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues (repeated)
Much less keen to survive them
Than to share their coffins
We shall have the sublime pride
To avenge or follow them.


Cultural impact and musical adaptations edit

Score of the opening lines of "La Marseillaise"

"La Marseillaise" was arranged for soprano, chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz in about 1830.[19]

Franz Liszt wrote a piano transcription of the anthem.[20]

During World War I, bandleader James Reese Europe played a jazz version of "La Marseillaise".[21]

Adaptations in other musical works edit

Historical Russian use edit

In Russia, "La Marseillaise" was used as a republican revolutionary anthem by those who knew French starting in the 18th century, almost simultaneously with its adoption in France. In 1875 Peter Lavrov, a narodnik revolutionary and theorist, wrote a Russian-language text (not a translation of the French one) to the same melody. This "Worker's Marseillaise" became one of the most popular revolutionary songs in Russia and was used in the Revolution of 1905. After the February Revolution of 1917, it was used as the semi-official national anthem of the new Russian republic. Even after the October Revolution, it remained in use for a while alongside "The Internationale".[30]

Critique edit

The English philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham, who was declared an honorary citizen of France in 1791 in recognition of his sympathies for the ideals of the French Revolution, was not enamoured of "La Marseillaise". Contrasting its qualities with the "beauty" and "simplicity" of "God Save the King", he wrote in 1796:

The War whoop of anarchy, the Marseillais Hymn, is to my ear, I must confess, independently of all moral association, a most dismal, flat, and unpleasing ditty: and to any ear it is at any rate a long winded and complicated one. In the instance of a melody so mischievous in its application, it is a fortunate incident, if, in itself, it should be doomed neither in point of universality, nor permanence, to gain equal hold on the affections of the people.[31]

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing who was President of France for most of the 1970s, said that it is ridiculous to sing about drenching French fields with impure Prussian blood as a Chancellor of the modern democratic Germany takes the salute in Paris.[32] A 1992 campaign to change the words of the song involving more than 100 prominent French citizens, including Danielle Mitterrand, wife of then-President François Mitterrand, was unsuccessful.[33]

The British historian Simon Schama discussed "La Marseillaise" on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 17 November 2015 (in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks), saying it was "... the great example of courage and solidarity when facing danger; that's why it is so invigorating, that's why it really is the greatest national anthem in the world, ever. Most national anthems are pompous, brassy, ceremonious, but this is genuinely thrilling. Very important in the song ... is the line 'before us is tyranny, the bloody standard of tyranny has risen'. There is no more ferocious tyranny right now than ISIS, so it's extremely easy for the tragically and desperately grieving French to identify with that".[34]

In 1979 a reggae version "Aux armes et caetera" by Serge Gainsbourg was received poorly by some in France, particularly in Le Figaro, where Michel Droit accused him of making money from the national anthem and suggesting that he was feeding antisemitism. Gainsbourg was also criticised for removing some of the military-focused aspects of the song.[35][36]

See also edit

Explanatory notes edit

  1. ^ Pronunciation: /ˌmɑːrsəˈlz, ˌmɑːrsˈ(j)ɛz/ MAR-sə-LAYZ, MAR-say-(Y)EZ, French: [la maʁsɛjɛːz]
  2. ^ pronounced [ʃɑ̃ ɡɛʁ puʁ laʁme dy ʁɛ̃]
  3. ^ The seventh verse was not part of the original text; it was added in 1792 by an unknown author.

References edit

  1. ^ Dictionnaire Universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie, p. 601 – Jode and Cara (Larousse 2011)
  2. ^ "La Marseillaise" (in French). National Assembly of France. Archived from the original on 15 May 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  3. ^ a b Weber, Eugen (1 June 1976). Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914. Stanford University Press. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-8047-1013-8. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  4. ^ Stevens, Benjamin F. (January 1896). "Story of La Marseillaise". The Musical Record. Boston, Massachusetts: Oliver Ditson Company (408): 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Plaque Frédéric De Dietrich". Archi-Wiki. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  6. ^ (in French) Louis Spach, Frederic de Dietrich, premier maire de Strasbourg., Strasbourgh, Vve. Berger-Levrault & fils, 1857.
  7. ^ "General François Mireur". Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  8. ^ Wochenblatt, dem Unterricht des Landvolks gewidmet, Colmar 1792 [1] Archived 30 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Mould, Michael (2011). The Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French. New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-136-82573-6. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Modern History Sourcebook: La Marseillaise". sourcebooks.fordham.edu. Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  11. ^ "La Marseillaise, un hymne à l'histoire tourmentée" by Romaric Godin, La Tribune, 20 November 2015 (in French)
  12. ^ Ovale, Micaela; Mazzetto, Giulia. "Progetti Viotti" (PDF). Guido Rimonda (in Italian). Retrieved 24 August 2019. Basti ricordare che 'La Marsigliese' nasce da un tema con variazioni di Viotti scritto nel 1781, ben 11 anni prima della comparsa dell'inno nazionale francese ufficiale. [Just remember that 'La Marseillaise' was born from a theme with variations by Viotti written in 1781, 11 years before the appearance of the official French national anthem.]
  13. ^ La Face, Giuseppina (10 January 2016). "La Marsigliese e il mistero attorno alla sua paternità". il fatto quotidiano. Retrieved 10 January 2020. A dicembre la Camerata Ducale, diretta dal violinista Guido Rimonda, ha eseguito un Tema con variazioni per violino e orchestra sulla Marsigliese, attribuito al grande compositore vercellese Giovan Battista Viotti. Rimonda, che per la Decca sta registrando gli opera omnia dell'illustre concittadino, possiede un manoscritto del Tema con variazioni firmato 'GB Viotti' e datato '1781'... Nel libriccino che accompagna il CD Decca del 2013, è riprodotta la prima pagina del manoscritto. Secondo un esperto di Viotti, il canadese Warwick Lister (Ad Parnassum, XIII, aprile 2015), la firma di Viotti in alto a destra potrebbe essere autentica, ma le parole "2 mars 1781" sono di un'altra mano. Non si può dunque escludere che Viotti abbia davvero scritto una serie di variazioni su un tema che tutt'Europa conobbe a metà degli anni 1790; ma l'idea che il brano risalga al decennio precedente, e che la paternità musicale dell'inno vada girata a un violinista vercellese, è appesa all'esile filo di una data d'incerta mano su un manoscritto d'incerta provenienza. [In December the Camerata Ducale, conducted by the violinist Guido Rimonda, performed a Theme with variations for violin and orchestra on the Marseillaise, attributed to the great Vercelli composer Giovan Battista Viotti. Rimonda, who for the Decca is recording the opera omnia of the illustrious fellow citizen, owns a manuscript of the Theme with variations signed "GB Viotti" and dated '1781'... In the booklet accompanying the 2013 Decca CD, the first page of the manuscript is reproduced. According to an expert from Viotti, the Canadian Warwick Lister (Ad Parnassum, XIII, April 2015), Viotti's signature on the top right may be authentic, but the words '2 mars 1781' are from another hand. It cannot therefore be excluded that Viotti actually wrote a series of variations on a theme that all of Europe knew in the mid-1790s; but the idea that the piece dates back to the previous decade, and that the musical authorship of the hymn should be turned to a Vercelli violinist, hangs on the slender thread of a date of uncertain hand on a manuscript of uncertain origin.]
  14. ^ "Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503". Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  15. ^ Lot, Arthur (1886). La Marseillaise: enquête sur son véritable auteur. V. Palmé, 1886; Nouvelles Éditions Latines 1992. p. 11. ISBN 9782723304580. Retrieved 13 January 2020. Cette partition musicale, que ma famille possède toujours, avait été écrite par Jean-Baptiste Lucien Grisons, chef de maîtrise à la cathédrale de Saint-Omer de 1775 à 1787. Or l'air des Stances sur la Calamnie, par laquelle débute cet oratorio, n'est autre que l'air de la Marseillaise [This musical score, which my family still owns, was written by Jean-Baptiste Lucien Grisons, chief of master at the cathedral of Saint-Omer from 1775 to 1787. Now the tune of Stances on Calamnia, with which this oratorio begins, is none other than the air of the Marseillaise.]
  16. ^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Marseillaise" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  17. ^ Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Marseillaise" . The American Cyclopædia. See also Geschichte eines deutschen Liedes at German Wikisource.
  18. ^ Istel, Edgar (April 1922). "Is the Marseillaise a German composition? (The history of a hoax)". The Musical Quarterly. 8 (2): 213–226. doi:10.1093/mq/viii.2.213. JSTOR 738232.
  19. ^ William Apthorp (1879) Hector Berlioz; Selections from His Letters, and Aesthetic, Humorous, and Satirical Writings, Henry Holt, New York
  20. ^ L. J. de Bekker (1909) Stokes' Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians, Frederick Stokes, New York
  21. ^ Williams, Chad L. (2010). Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 165–166. ISBN 9780807833940. OCLC 681746132.
  22. ^ "Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 (Carnival of Vienna) | Mimi Solomon | Piano Music | Free classical music online".
  23. ^ "Why does everyone love the Marseillaise, France's national anthem?". Classic FM (UK). Retrieved 26 March 2023.
  24. ^ "The National Anthem's predecessor and influences". Malacañang Palace. 10 June 2014. Archived from the original on 13 December 2014.
  25. ^ Described and played on BBC Radio 3's CD Review program "Building a Library: Elgar: Violin Concerto" (14 January 2012)[time needed]
  26. ^ "Origins of our Club song", Brisbane Lions
  27. ^ Edwards, Gavin (28 August 2014). "How the Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love' Made History". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  28. ^ "The Spiritual French Revolution: A Miracle in Our Times, 5752 (1992)". Chabad.org. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Access the Animus – Interview with Sarah Schachner". www.accesstheanimus.com. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  30. ^ Соболева, Н. А. (2005). "Из истории отечественных государственных гимнов" [From the history of national national anthems] (PDF). Отечественная история [National History] (in Russian) (1): 10–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2008.
  31. ^ Bentham, Jeremy (2001). Quinn, Michael (ed.). Writings on the Poor Laws, Vol. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0199242320.
  32. ^ Bremner, Charles (14 May 2014). "Cannes star denounces 'racist' Marseillaise at festival opening". The Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  33. ^ Riding, Alan (5 March 1992). "Aux Barricades! 'La Marseillaise' Is Besieged". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  34. ^ "Simon Schama explains La Marseillaise". BBC News. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  35. ^ "Revisiting Serge Gainsbourg's version of 'La Marseillaise'". faroutmagazine.co.uk. 2 April 2022.
  36. ^ "Aux armes et caetera" – via www.youtube.com.

Further reading edit

External links edit