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La Marseillaise

This article is about the anthem "La Marseillaise". A sculpture popularly called "La Marseillaise" is part of the sculptural programme of the Arc de Triomphe.

"La Marseillaise" is the national anthem of France.



"La Marseillaise" is a song written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle at Strasbourg on April 25, 1792. Its original name is "Chant de guerre de l'Armée du Rhin" ("Marching Song of the Rhine Army). It became the rallying call of the French Revolution and was so-called because it was first sung on the streets by troops (fédérés) from Marseille upon their arrival in Paris.

Now the national anthem of France, it was in its earliest years the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. After the rise of centralized Communism, the song was largely replaced by "The Internationale" as the unifying song of the international Left. It was the anthem of the Paris Commune. Because great numbers of people on the left around the world, particularly anarchists took inspiration from the Commune, it became an international symbol of leftism. For instance, in Chicago the Haymarket Martyrs went to the deaths singing the song. In 1917, after the collapse of the tsarist regime "La Marseillaise" became the national anthem of Russia, the Russian lyrics ("Otrechemsya ot starogo mira") being very different from the French lyrics. It was soon replaced with "The Internationale" by the Bolsheviks.

The song was banned in Vichy France and German occupied areas during World War II and singing it was an act of resistance (see also Chant des Partisans).

"La Marseillaise" was re-arranged by Hector Berlioz around 1830.

In France itself, the anthem (and particularly the lyrics) has become a somewhat controversial issue since the 1970s. Some consider it militaristic and xenophobic, and many propositions have been made to change the anthem or the lyrics. However, "La Marseillaise" has been associated throughout history with the French Republic and its values, making a change unlikely.

Recently, and despite the lyrics, it was largely sung by anti-racist protesters after the accession of Jean-Marie Le Pen to the second turn of presidential election in 2002.

Unofficial versions


The song was part of a famous scene in the film Casablanca in which French resistance sympathizers used the song to drown out the Nazi soldiers who were singing "Die Wacht am Rhein". These two songs were juxtaposed in exactly the same way five years earlier, in Jean Renoir's 1937 film Grand Illusion.


There are various versions of the music. Sheet music can be found at [1]. An official version from the website of the French President can be accessed as a RealAudio File (116 KB), Wave File (660 KB), or Marseillaise.mid.


Note only the first verse (and sometimes the 6th and 7th) and the first chorus are sung nowadays in France.

French lyrics

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
Egorger vos fils et vos compagnes!
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos batallions,
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 ces cohortes étrangères!
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers!
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fils guerriers! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres des 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 France en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre
Français, en guerriers magnanimes
Portez ou retenez vos coups!
Épargnez ces tristes victimes
A 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!
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

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into your midst
To cut the throats of your sons and your wives
To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
March, march
Let the impure blood (of our enemies)
Soak the furrows (of our fields)
What do they want this horde of slaves
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
For whom these vile chains
These long-prepared irons?
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What methods must be taken?
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!
What! These foreign cohorts!
They would make laws in our courts!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would cut down our warrior sons
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brow would yield under the yoke
The vile despots would have themselves be
The masters of destiny
Tremble, tyrants and traitors
The shame of all good men
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will receive their just reward
Against you we are all soldiers
If they fall, our young heroes
France will bear new ones
Ready to join the fight against you
Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors
Bear or hold back your blows
Spare these sad victims
That they regret taking up arms against us
But not these bloody despots
These accomplices of Bouillé
All these tigers who mercilessly
Ripped out their mothers' wombs
Drive on sacred patriotism
Support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty
Join the struggle with your defenders
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your manly tone
So that in death your enemies
See your triumph and our glory!
We shall enter into the career
When our elders will no longer be there
There we shall find their ashes
And the mark of their virtues
We are much less jealous of surviving them
Than of sharing their coffins
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or joining them

External links

Official French government sites

Other sites

Last updated: 05-07-2005 14:15:11
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04