Ça Ira

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For the opera, see Ça Ira (opera). For the range of French warships, see French ship Ça Ira.
Demons in the sky sing "Ça ira" as the blade of the guillotine severs the head of Louis XVI in this British print published just four days after the king's execution on 21 January 1793.

"Ça ira" (French: "it'll be fine") is an emblematic song of the French Revolution, first heard in May 1790. It underwent several changes in wording, all of which used the title words as part of the refrain.

Original version[edit]

The author of the original words "Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira", Ladré, was a former soldier who made a living as a street singer.

The music is a popular contredanse air called le Carillon national, and was composed by Bécourt, a violinist (according to other sources: side drum player) of the théâtre Beaujolais. The queen Marie Antoinette herself is said to have often played the music on her harpsichord.

The title and theme of the refrain were inspired by Benjamin Franklin, in France as a representative of the Continental Congress, who was very popular among the French people. When asked about the American Revolutionary War, he would reportedly reply, in somewhat broken French, "Ça ira, ça ira" ("It'll be fine, it'll be fine").

The song first became popular as a worksong during the preparation for the Fête de la Fédération of 1790 and eventually became recognized as an unofficial anthem of revolutionaries.[1]


Ça ira

Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Le peuple en ce jour sans cesse répète, The people on this day repeat over and over,
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Malgré les mutins tout réussira. In spite of the mutineers everything shall succeed.
Nos ennemis confus en restent là Our enemies, confounded, stay petrified
Et nous allons chanter « Alléluia ! » And we shall sing Alleluia
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Quand Boileau jadis du clergé parla When Boileau used to speak about the clergy
Comme un prophète il a prédit cela. Like a prophet he predicted this.
En chantant ma chansonnette By singing my little song
Avec plaisir on dira : With pleasure, people shall say,
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Suivant les maximes de l’évangile According to the precepts of the Gospel
Du législateur tout s’accomplira. Of the lawmaker everything shall be accomplished
Celui qui s’élève on l’abaissera The one who puts on airs shall be brought down
Celui qui s’abaisse on l’élèvera. The one who is humble shall be elevated
Le vrai catéchisme nous instruira The true catechism shall instruct us
Et l’affreux fanatisme s’éteindra. And the awful fanaticism shall be snuffed out.
Pour être à la loi docile At being obedient to Law
Tout Français s’exercera. Every Frenchman shall train
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Pierrette et Margot chantent la guinguette Pierrette and Margot sing the guinguette
Réjouissons-nous, le bon temps viendra ! Let us rejoice, good times will come !
Le peuple français jadis à quia, The French people used to keep silent,
L’aristocrate dit : « Mea culpa ! » The aristocrat says Mea culpa!
Le clergé regrette le bien qu'il a, The clergy regrets its wealth,
Par justice, la nation l’aura. The state, with justice, will get it.
Par le prudent Lafayette, Thanks to the careful Lafayette,
Tout le monde s'apaisera. Everyone will calm down.
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Par les flambeaux de l’auguste assemblée, By the torches of the august assembly,
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Le peuple armé toujours se gardera. An armed people will always take care of themselves.
Le vrai d'avec le faux l’on connaîtra, We'll know right from wrong,
Le citoyen pour le bien soutiendra. The citizen will support the Good.
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah ! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Quand l’aristocrate protestera, When the aristocrat shall protest,
Le bon citoyen au nez lui rira, The good citizen will laugh in his face,
Sans avoir l’âme troublée, Without troubling his soul,
Toujours le plus fort sera. And will always be the stronger.
Petits comme grands sont soldats dans l’âme, Small ones and great ones all have the soul of a soldier,
Pendant la guerre aucun ne trahira. During war none shall betray.
Avec cœur tout bon Français combattra, With heart all good French people will fight,
S’il voit du louche, hardiment parlera. If he sees something fishy he shall speak with courage.
Lafayette dit : « Vienne qui voudra ! » Lafayette says "come if you will!"
Sans craindre ni feu, ni flamme, Without fear for fire or flame,
Le Français toujours vaincra ! The French always shall win!


Sans-culotte version[edit]

At later stages of the revolution, many sans-culottes used several much more aggressive stanzas, calling for the lynching of the nobility and the clergy.


Ça ira

Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
les aristocrates à la lanterne! aristocrats to the lamp-post
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
les aristocrates on les pendra! the aristocrats, we'll hang them!
Si on n’ les pend pas If we don't hang them
On les rompra We'll break them
Si on n’ les rompt pas If we don't break them
On les brûlera. We'll burn them
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
les aristocrates à la lanterne! aristocrats to the lamp-post
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
les aristocrates on les pendra! the aristocrats, we'll hang them!
Nous n’avions plus ni nobles, ni prêtres, We have no more nobles nor priests
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
L’égalité partout régnera. Equality will reign everywhere
L’esclave autrichien le suivra, The Austrian slave shall follow him
Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
Et leur infernale clique And their infernal clique
Au diable s’envolera. Shall go to hell
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
les aristocrates à la lanterne! aristocrats to the lamp-post
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira Ah! It'll be fine, It'll be fine, It'll be fine
les aristocrates on les pendra! the aristocrats, we'll hang them!
Et quand on les aura tous pendus And when we'll have hung them all
On leur fichera la pelle au cul We'll stick a shovel up their arse


Post-revolutionary use[edit]

The song survived past the Reign of Terror, and, during the Directory, it became mandatory to sing it before shows. It was forbidden under the Consulate.

The ship of the line La Couronne was renamed Ça Ira in 1792 in reference to this song.

At the 1793 Battle of Famars, the 14th Regiment of Foot, The West Yorkshire Regiment, attacked the French to the music of Ça Ira (the colonel commenting that he would "beat the French to their own damned tune"). The regiment was later awarded the tune as a battle honour and regimental quick march. It has since been adopted by the Yorkshire Regiment.

Carl Schurz, in Wikisource-logo.svg v. 1, ch. 14, of his Reminiscences., reported from exile in England that upon Napoleon III's coup d'état of 2 December 1851, “Our French friends shouted and shrieked and gesticulated and hurled opprobrious names at Louis Napoleon and cursed his helpers, and danced the Carmagnole and sang ‘Ça Ira.’”

Modern adaptations[edit]

An alternative "sans-culotte"-like version was sung by Edith Piaf for the soundtrack of the film Si Versailles m'était conté by Sacha Guitry.

The song is featured in the 1999 television series The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring Richard E. Grant. There the lyrics are sung in English as follows :

Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Over in France there's a revolution
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Watch what you say or you'll lose your head
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Pass some time, see an execution!
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Une deux trois and you fall down dead
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Hear the tale of Marie Antoinette-a!
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
A bloodier sight you have never seen!

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hanson, Paul R. (2004). Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Scarecrow Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-8108-5052-1. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 

External links[edit]