The Marseillais volunteers departing, sculpted on the
Arc de Triomphe
National anthem of France
|Also known as||Chant de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin|
|Lyrics||Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, 1792|
|Music||Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle|
"La Marseillaise" (French pronunciation: [la maʁsɛjɛːz]) 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" ("War Song for the Rhine Army").
The Marseillaise was a revolutionary song, an anthem to freedom, a patriotic call to mobilize all the citizens and an exhortation to fight against tyranny and foreign invasion. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795. It acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching on 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.
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, requested his guest Rouget de Lisle compose a song "that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat". That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" (English: "War Song for the Army of the Rhine"), and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham. A plaque on the building on Place Broglie where De Dietrich's house once stood commemorates the event.
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. A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoléon Bonaparte and died in Egypt at age 28.
The song's lyric reflects the invasion of France by foreign armies (from Prussia and Austria) that were 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.
The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France's first anthem. It later lost this status under Napoleon I, and the song was banned outright by Louis XVIII and Charles X, only being re-instated briefly after the July Revolution of 1830. 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". 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.
Several musical antecedents have been cited for the melody:
- Mozart's Allegro maestoso of Piano Concerto No. 25
- the credo of the fourth mass of Holtzmann of Mursberg
- the Oratorio Esther by Jean Baptiste Lucien Grison
- Recent researches have pointed out that the incipit of "Tema e variazioni in Do maggiore", composed in 1781 by Piedmontese violinist and composer Giovanni Battista Viotti bears a strong resemblance to the hymn
Rouget de Lisle himself never signed the Marseillaise score.
Commemorative plaque on 3, place Broglie in Strasbourg
Général Mireur, 1770–1798, anonymous, terra cotta, Faculty of Medicine, Montpellier, France.
Only the first verse (and sometimes the fifth and sixth) and the first chorus are sung today in France. There are some slight historical variations in the lyrics of the song; the following is the version listed at the official website of the French Presidency. Verses sung in the contemporary version of the anthem are in bold.
Ye sons of France, awake to glory,
Hark, hark! what myriads bid you rise!
Your children, wives and white-haired grandsires.
Behold their tears and hear their cries! (repeat)
Shall hateful tyrants, mischiefs breeding,
With hireling hosts, a ruffian band,
Affright and desolate the land,
While peace and liberty lie bleeding?
To arms, to arms, ye brave!
The avenging sword unsheath,
March on, march on!
All hearts resolv'd
On victory or death!
Now, now, the dangerous storm is rolling
Which treacherous kings confederate raise!
The dogs of war, let loose, are howling,
And lo! our fields and cities blaze! (repeat)
alt: And lo! our homes will soon invade!
And shall we basely view the ruin
While lawless force with guilty stride
Spreads desolation far and wide
With crimes and blood his hands embruing?
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...
With luxury and pride surrounded
The vile insatiate despots dare,
Their thirst of power and gold unbounded,
To mete and vend the light and air! (repeat)
Like beasts of burden would they load us,
Like gods would bid their slaves adore,
But man is man, and who is more?
Then shall they longer lash and goad us?
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...
O Liberty, can man resign thee
Once having felt thy generous flame?
Can dungeons, bolts or bars confine thee
Or whips thy noble spirit tame? (repeat)
Too long the world has wept, bewailing
That falsehood's dagger tyrants wield,
But freedom is our sword and shield,
And all their arts are unavailing.
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...
These verses were omitted from the national anthem.
Quotations in other musical works
- During the French Revolution, Giuseppe Cambini published Patriotic Airs for Two Violins, in which the song is quoted literally and as a variation theme, with other patriotic songs.
- Ludwig van Beethoven quotes "La Marseillaise" in his Wellington's Victory overture, op. 91, composed in 1813.
- Gioachino Rossini quotes "La Marseillaise" in his 1813 opera, L'italiana in Algeri, during the choral introduction to Isabella's 2nd act aria "Pensa alla patria" and in the second act of his opera Semiramide (1823).
- Robert Schumann used part of "La Marseillaise" for "Die beiden Grenadiere" (The Two Grenadiers), his 1840 setting (Op. 49, No. 1) of Heinrich Heine's poem "Die Grenadiere". The quotation appears at the end of the song when the old French soldier dies. Schumann also incorporated "La Marseillaise" as a major motif in his overture Hermann und Dorothea, inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and quotes it, in waltz rhythm, in the first movement of Faschingsschwank aus Wien, for solo piano.
- Richard Wagner also quotes from "La Marseillaise" in his 1839–40 setting of a French translation of Heine's poem.
- In Orphée aux enfers (1858), Jacques Offenbach quotes it in the "Choeur de la Révolte" (Revolutionary Chorus) in Act I, Scene. 2
- Giuseppe Verdi quotes from "La Marseillaise" in his patriotic anthem Hymn of the Nations, which also incorporates "God Save the King" and "Il Canto degli Italiani". In his 1944 film, the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini also incorporated "The Internationale" for the Soviet Union and "The Star-Spangled Banner" representing the United States.
- Greek composer Pavlos Carrer quotes "La Marseillaise" in the overture of his 1873 opera Maria Antonietta (libretto by Count Georgios Romas).
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky quotes "La Marseillaise" to represent the invading French army in his 1812 Overture (1882). He also quotes the Russian national anthem he was familiar with, to represent the Russian army. However, neither of these anthems was actually in use in 1812.
- In 1896, Umberto Giordano briefly quotes the anthem in his opera Andrea Chénier.
- Claude Debussy quotes a fragment of the anthem marked "de très loin" in the dreamlike and dissonant coda of his piano prelude, Feux d'artifice.
- Flemish composer Peter Benoit quotes "La Marseillaise" in the overture of his 1876 opera Charlotte Corday.
- Edward Elgar quotes the opening of "La Marseillaise" in his choral work The Music Makers, Op. 69 (1912), based on Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode, at the line "We fashion an empire's glory", where he also quotes the opening phrase of "Rule, Britannia!".
- Felix Weingartner incorporated fragments of the "Marseillaise", as well as of the Russian anthem God Save the Tsar!, the Kaiser's anthem Heil dir im Siegerkranz and of the Austrian anthem Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser in his concert overture Aus ernster Zeit, reflecting the major opponents of World War I.
- Heitor Villa-Lobos quotes "La Marseillaise" in his 3rd ("War") and 4th ("Victory") Symphonies (both 1919). In the finale of No. 3, fragments of it form a collage with the Brazilian national anthem.
- Dmitri Shostakovich quotes "La Marseillaise" at some length during the fifth reel of the film score he composed for the 1929 silent movie, The New Babylon (set during the Paris Commune), where it is juxtaposed contrapuntally with the famous "Infernal Galop" from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.
- Gottfried Huppertz quotes "La Marseillaise" in his score for the 1927 film Metropolis over scenes of rioting workers.
- Max Steiner weaves quotes from "La Marseillaise" throughout his score for the 1942 film Casablanca. It also forms an important plot element when patrons of Rick's Café Américain, spontaneously led by Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo, sing the actual song to drown out Nazi officers who had started singing "Die Wacht am Rhein", thus causing Rick's to be shut down. The scene is reminiscent of one in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion, in which French and British prisoners of war performing amateur theatricals to a mixed audience of guards and fellow-prisoners sing the song aggressively at the Germans upon hearing of a minor French victory.
- Django Reinhardt uses the theme in "Échos de France."
- The Beatles hit single of 1967, "All You Need Is Love", uses the opening bars of "La Marseillaise" as an introduction.
- The Slovenian music group Laibach released the album Volk in 2006, which featured interpretations of various national anthems and included "Francia", a song inspired by "La Marseillaise".
- In Peru and Chile, both the Partido Aprista Peruano ("La Marsellesa Aprista"), and the Socialist Party of Chile ("La Marsellesa Socialista"), wrote their own versions of "La Marseillaise" to be their anthems. Both use the original tune.
- The Canadian post-hardcore band Silverstein uses the English translation of the first two choruses of "La Marseillaise" in their song "La Marseillaise". The song is featured on their album Short Songs.
- Hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest uses the opening bars of "La Marseillaise" as an outro to their song "Push It Along" on their 1990 album People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.
- American song parodist and comedian Allan Sherman, on his album My Son, the Nut, uses the tune of "La Marseillaise" as part of the opening of his song "You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie" (a French Revolution-themed parody of You Came a Long Way from St. Louis), solemnly intoning "Louis The Sixteenth was the king of France, in 17–89..."
Notable use in other media
- Stefan Zweig narrates the creation of the anthem by Rouget De Lisle in one of the Decisive Moments in History, as does Alexandre Dumas in The Countess de Charny, claiming his account comes from Rouget de Lisle's own mouth.
- In the 1987 NES video game Punch-Out!!, the French boxer Glass Joe uses an arrangement of La Marseillaise as his intro theme.
- The 1938 film La Marseillaise shows the Marseille fédérés marching to Paris and singing the anthem.
- In the RKO film Joan of Paris (1942), "La Marseillaise" is sung by a classroom full of young schoolchildren as the Gestapo hunts their teacher, a French Resistance operative.
- "La Marseillaise" was famously used in Casablanca at the behest of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) to drown out a group of German soldiers singing "Die Wacht am Rhein." It was also played during the closing card of the movie. Earlier, it appeared in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion in a similar defiant fashion, sung by French and British POWs.
- The British sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! spoofed Casablanca by having the patriotic French characters start singing "La Marseillaise," only to switch to Deutschlandlied when Nazi officers enter their café.
- Vanessa Redgrave sings "La Marsellaise" (in French) in the closing scene of Playing for Time, a 1980 CBS television film about the Auschwitz concentration camp.
- "La Marseillaise" was used in the film Escape to Victory, also known as Victory.
- In the biopic La Vie en Rose, chronicling the life of Edith Piaf, ten-year-old Edith is urged by her acrobat father to "do something" in the middle of a lackluster show, and she amazes the audience with an emotional rendition of "La Marseillaise."
- The carillon of the town hall in the Bavarian town of Cham plays "La Marseillaise" every day at 12.05 pm to commemorate the French Marshal Nicolas Luckner, who was born there.
- The first part of the "La Marseillaise" was used in the film's opening scene in the 2007 Disney's Pixar film, Ratatouille.
Historical use in Russia
La Marseillaise performed on a synthesizer.
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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 narodist 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.
Criticism and controversy
The English philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham, who was declared an honorary citizen of France in 1791 in acknowledgement 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.
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a former President of France, has said that it is ridiculous to sing about drenching French fields with impure Prussian blood as a German Chancellor takes the salute in Paris. 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.
The 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".
- "Marche Henri IV", the national anthem of the Kingdom of France
- "La Marseillaise des Blancs", the Royal and Catholic variation
- Ça Ira, another famous anthem of the French Revolution
- "Belarusian Marseillaise", a patriotic song in Belarus
- "Onamo", a Montenegrin patriotic song popularly known as The "Serbian Marseillaise"
- "La Marseillaise". National Assembly of France. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- 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.
- Stevens, Benjamin F. (January 1896). "Story of La Marseillaise". The Musical Record. Boston, Massachusetts: Oliver Ditson Company (408): 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
- "General François Mireur". Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- Wochenblatt, dem Unterricht des Landvolks gewidmet, Colmar 1792 .
- 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.
- Modern History Sourcebook: La Marseillaise, 1792.
- Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Marseillaise". The American Cyclopædia. See also Geschichte eines deutschen Liedes at German Wikisource.
- Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Marseillaise". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- "La Marseillaise, un hymne à l'histoire tourmentée" (in French). Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- La Marseillaise, l'Elysée.
- The seventh verse was not part of the original text; it was added in 1792 by an unknown author.
- Library of Congress
- William Apthorp (1879) Hector Berlioz; Selections from His Letters, and Aesthetic, Humorous, and Satirical Writings, Henry Holt, New York
- L.J. de Bekker (1909) Stokes' Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians, Frederick Stokes, New York
- "SCANDALES DU XXe SIÈCLE – Gainsbourg métisse 'La Marseillaise' " (1 September 2006) Le Monde, Paris (French)
- Described and played on BBC Radio 3's CD Review program (14 January 2012)
- "La Marsellesa Aprista", Partido Aprista Peruano, Official Website
- Boletín del Comité Central del PSCH N°34–35, April–May 1973.
- Соболева, Н.А. 2005. Из истории отечественных государственных гимнов. Журнал "Отечественная история", 1. P.10-12
- Bentham, Jeremy (2001). Quinn, Michael, ed. Writings on the Poor Laws, Vol. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 136. ISBN 0199242321.
- Bremner, Charles (14 May 2014). "Cannes star denounces 'racist' Marseillaise at festival opening". The Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- Riding, Alan (5 March 1992). "Aux Barricades! 'La Marseillaise' Is Besieged". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- "Simon Schama explains La Marseillaise". BBC News. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
- Charles Hughes, "Music of the French Revolution," Science and Society, vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring 1940), pp. 193–210. In JSTOR.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to La Marseillaise.|
- La Marseillaise de Rouget de Lisle – Official site of Élysée – Présidence de la République (in French)
- La Marseillaise: hymne national Official site of Assemblée nationale (in French)
- Instrumental Version of the French National Anthem
- Streaming audio of the Marseillaise, with information and links
- La Marseillaise – Iain Patterson's comprehensive fansite features sheet music, history, and music files. A full length six verse version of the anthem performed by David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra & Chorus can be found in the Berlioz page.
- Texts on Wikisource: