La Marseillaise, National Anthem of France

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The French National Anthem is known as La Marseillaise and was composed during the events of the French Revolution in the town of Strasbourg.


La Marseillaise: about the song

The anthem was composed in one night (24th April 1792) by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836), then an officer in the French army based in Strasbourg.

On the 20th April 1792, France declared war on Austria. Baron Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich, the mayor of Strasbourg expressed the need for a marching song that served as an anthem to freedom and a patriotic call to exhort all citizens against the tyranny and the foreign invasion. In response to that wish, Rouget de Lisle, who was an amateur musician, composed a rather brutal song originally entitled ‘Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin’ (‘War Song for the Army of the Rhine’).

The song became rapidly popular and reached Marseille three months later. It became known as ‘La Marseillaise’ when a battalion from Marseille sung the anthem in Paris in July 1792.

The Convention passed a decree on the 14th July 1795 to recognise La Marseillaise as France’s National Anthem. Banned under Napoleon I and under the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, it was definitely re-instated in 1879 as the French National Anthem and has remained since.


The French lyrics

Couplet 1

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 !

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Refrain :

Aux armes, citoyens,

Formez vos bataillons,

Marchons, marchons !

Qu’un sang impur

Abreuve nos sillons !

 

Couplet 2

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 !

 

Couplet 3

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 !

 

Couplet 4

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 !

 

Couplet 5

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 !

 

Couplet 6

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 7 (dit « couplet des enfants »)

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


English translation

(Verse 1)

Arise children of the fatherland

The day of glory has arrived

Against us tyranny’s

Bloody standard is raised (repeat)

Do you hear, in the countryside

The roar of these fearsome soldiers

They are coming into our midst

To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

 

(Chorus)

To arms citizens

Form your battalions

March, march

Let impure blood

Water our furrows

 

Verse 2

What do they want this horde of slaves

Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?

For whom these vile chains

These long-prepared irons? (repeat)

Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage

What methods must be taken?

It is us they dare plan

To return to the old slavery!

 

Verse 3

What! These foreign cohorts!

They would make laws in our courts!

What! These mercenary phalanxes

Would cut down our warrior sons (repeat)

Good Lord! By chained hands

Our brow would yield under the yoke

The vile despots would have themselves be

The masters of destiny

 

Verse 4

Tremble, tyrants and traitors

The shame of all good men

Tremble! Your parricidal schemes

Will receive their just reward (repeat)

Against you we are all soldiers

If they fall, our young heroes

The earth will bear new ones

Ready to join the fight against you

 

Verse 5

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors

Bear or hold back your blows

Spare these sorry victims

That they regret taking up arms against us (repeat)

But not these bloody despots

These accomplices of Bouillé

All these tigers who pitilessly

Ripped out their mothers’ breast

 

Verse 6

Sacred love of the Fatherland,

Lead, support our avenging arms!

Liberty, beloved Liberty,

Fight with your defenders! (repeat)

Under our flags, shall victory

Hasten to your manly tones!

May your dying enemies

See your triumph and our glory!

 

(Children’s Verse)

We will enter the pit

When our elders are no longer there;

There, we will find their dust

And the traces of their virtues. (repeat)

Much less eager to outlive them

Than to share their coffins,

We will have the sublime pride

Of avenging or following them!


 

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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