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National Symbols: National Anthem

"La Marseillaise" ("The Song of Marseille")

Date of Adoption: July 15, 1795

Music by: Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

Lyrics by: Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

"La Marseillaise" is arguably the world's most well-known anthem and a powerful symbol of France. During much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was also known as the anthem of the international revolutionary movement, and its style resembles a European march. The song's original name was "Chant de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" ("War Song for the Army of the Rhine"), and its lyrics are a defiant response to the invasion of France, as well as a rallying cry for all citizens to take up arms. They were written just a few days before Strasbourg was attacked in 1792 by the forces of Prussia and Austria. The author, Rouget de Lisle, was a captain quartered in Strasbourg at the time and set his lyrics to a composition derived from Mozart's Piano Concerto 25. 

According to popular belief, "La Marseillaise" was first sung by a young volunteer from Montpellier named François Mireur at a patriotic gathering in Marseille. It was then sung by the Marseille volunteers (fédérés) from Provence as they arrived on the streets of Paris. These volunteers distinguished themselves in the storming of the Tuileries, and from there the song became the rallying cry of the French Revolution. (Its creator, ironically, was imprisoned as a royalist the next year and just narrowly escaped execution.)

After the French Revolution, "La Marseillaise" was formally adopted as the French national anthem in a decree passed on July 14, 1795. It was subsequently banned by Napoleon I in 1799 and then again by Louis XVIII from 1814-1830. It was reinstated after the July Revolution of 1830, at which time Hector Berlioz arranged it for soprano, chorus and orchestra. "La Marseillaise" was banned again by Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, but it was finally restored in 1879. During Napoleon I's reign, "Veillons au Salut de l'Empire," composed by popular comic opera composer Nicolas Dalayrac, was the unofficial anthem of the regime. During Napoleon III's reign, the official anthem was "Le Chorale du Peuple," also known by its original title "Le Beau Dunois" or by its first line, "Partant pour la Syrie" ("Departing for Syria").

              French Lyrics                                            English Translation

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Come, children of the Fatherland,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us tyranny's
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis) bloodied banner is raised, (repeat)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes Do you hear in the countryside
Mugir ces féroces soldats ? The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras They come right here into your midst
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes ! To slit the throats of your sons and wives!
Aux armes, citoyens, To arms, citizens,
Formez vos bataillons, Form your battalions,
Marchons, marchons ! Let's march, let's march!
Qu'un sang impur May a tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Drench our furrows!
Que veut cette horde d'esclaves, What does this horde of slaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ? Of traitors and conspiring kings want?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves, For whom are these vile chains,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis) These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage Frenchmen, for us, ah! What an insult
Quels transports il doit exciter ! What fury it must arouse!
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer It is we whom they dare plan
De rendre à l'antique esclavage ! To return to the old slavery!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères What! Foreign cohorts
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers ! Would rule our homes!
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires What! These mercenary phalanxes
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis) Would cut down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées Great God ! By chained hands
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient Our heads would bow under the yoke
De vils despotes deviendraient Vile despots would become
Les maîtres de nos destinées ! The masters of our destinies!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides Tremble, tyrants and traitors
L'opprobre de tous les partis, The shame of all good men,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis) Will finally receive their just reward! (repeat)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre, Against you, we are all soldiers,
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros, If our young heroes fall,
La terre en produit de nouveaux, The earth will bear new ones,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre ! Ready to join the fight against you!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Français, en guerriers magnanimes, Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Portez ou retenez vos coups ! Bear or hold back your blows!
Épargnez ces tristes victimes, Spare these sorry victims,
À regret s'armant contre nous. (bis) Armed against us against their will. (repeat)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires, But not these blood-thirsty despots,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé, These accomplices of Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié, All these tigers who mercilessly
Déchirent le sein de leur mère ! Slash their mother's breast!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Amour sacré de la Patrie, Sacred patriotic love,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs Lead and support our avenging arms
Liberté, Liberté chérie, Liberty, cherished liberty,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis) Fight back with your defenders! (repeat)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire Under our flags, let victory
Accoure à tes mâles accents, Hurry to your manly tone,
Que tes ennemis expirants So that your dying enemies,
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire ! See your triumph and our glory!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
(Couplet des enfants) (Children's Verse)
Nous entrerons dans la carrière We shall enter the (military) career
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus, When our elders are no longer there,
Nous y trouverons leur poussière There we shall find their dust
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis) And the mark of their virtues (repeat)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre Much less jealous to survive them
Que de partager leur cercueil, Than to share their coffins,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil We shall have the sublime pride
De les venger ou de les suivre Of avenging or following them
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...