La Marseillaise

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La Marseillaise
English: The Marseillaise
Le Départ des Volontaires (La Marseillaise) par Rude, Arc de Triomphe Etoile Paris.jpg
The Marseillais volunteers departing, sculpted on the Arc de Triomphe

National anthem of  France
Also known asChant de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin (English: War song for the Army of the Rhine)
LyricsClaude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, 1792
MusicClaude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Adopted1795–1799, 1870
Audio sample
"La Marseillaise"

"La Marseillaise" (/ˌmɑːrsəˈlz, ˌmɑːrsˈ(j)ɛz/ MAR-sə-LAYZ, MAR-say-(Y)EZ, French: [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 French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795. The song acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching to 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.


Rouget de Lisle, composer of the Marseillaise, sings it for the first time at the home of Dietrich, Mayor of Strasbourg (Musée historique de Strasbourg, 1849 painting by Isidore Pils)

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".[1] That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin"[2] (English: "War Song for the Army of the Rhine"), and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham.[3] A plaque on the building on Place Broglie where De Dietrich's house once stood commemorates the event.[4] De Dietrich was executed the next year during the Reign of Terror.[5]

François Mireur, anonymous, terra cotta bust

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.[2] A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoléon Bonaparte and died in Egypt at age 28.[6]

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.[7]

Belgian singer Jean Noté singing "La Marseillaise" in 1907

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France's first anthem.[8] 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.[9] 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.[9]


Commemorative plaque on 3, place Broglie in Strasbourg

Several musical antecedents have been cited for the melody:

Other attributions (the credo of the fourth mass of Holtzmann of Mursberg[14]) have been refuted.[15]

Rouget de Lisle himself never signed the Marseillaise score.


Only the first verse (and sometimes the fourth 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.[16]

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 !

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
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 !

Aux armes, citoyens ...

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 !

Aux armes, citoyens ...

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 !

Aux armes, citoyens ...

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 !

Aux armes, citoyens ...

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 !

Aux armes, citoyens ...

(Couplet des enfants)[17]
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.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

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 those ferocious soldiers?
They're coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's march, let's march!
Let an impure blood
Water our furrows!

What does this horde of slaves,
Of traitors and conspiring kings want?
For whom have these vile chains,
These irons, been long prepared? (repeat)
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What furious action it must arouse!
It is to us they dare plan
A return to the old slavery!

To arms, citizens ...

What! Foreign cohorts
Would make the law in our homes!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would strike down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Great God! By chained hands
Our brows would yield under the yoke!
Vile despots would themselves become
The masters of our destinies!

To arms, citizens ...

Tremble, tyrants and you traitors
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their prize! (repeat)
Everyone is a soldier to combat you,
If they fall, our young heroes,
Will be produced anew from the ground,
Ready to fight against you!

To arms, citizens ...

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Bear or hold back your blows!
Spare those sorry victims,
For regretfully arming against us. (repeat)
But these bloodthirsty despots,
These accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who mercilessly
Tear apart their mother's breast!

To arms, citizens ...

Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Lead, support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished Liberty,
Fight with thy defenders! (repeat)
Under our flags may victory
Hurry to thy manly accents,
So that thy expiring enemies
See thy triumph and our glory!

To arms, citizens ...

(Children's Verse)
We shall enter the (military) career
When our elders are no longer there,
There we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues (repeat)
Much less keen to survive them
Than to share their coffins,
We shall have the sublime pride
To avenge or follow them.

To arms, citizens ...

Additional verses[edit]

These verses were omitted from the national anthem.

Dieu de clémence et de justice
Vois nos tyrans, juge nos coeurs
Que ta bonté nous soit propice
Défends-nous de ces oppresseurs (bis)
Tu règnes au ciel et sur terre
Et devant Toi, tout doit fléchir
De ton bras, viens nous soutenir
Toi, grand Dieu, maître du tonnerre.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

Peuple français, connais ta gloire ;
Couronné par l'Égalité,
Quel triomphe, quelle victoire,
D'avoir conquis la Liberté ! (bis)
Le Dieu qui lance le tonnerre
Et qui commande aux éléments,
Pour exterminer les tyrans,
Se sert de ton bras sur la terre.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

Nous avons de la tyrannie
Repoussé les derniers efforts ;
De nos climats, elle est bannie ;
Chez les Français les rois sont morts. (bis)
Vive à jamais la République !
Anathème à la royauté !
Que ce refrain, partout porté,
Brave des rois la politique.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

La France que l'Europe admire
A reconquis la Liberté
Et chaque citoyen respire
Sous les lois de l'Égalité ; (bis)
Un jour son image chérie
S'étendra sur tout l'univers.
Peuples, vous briserez vos fers
Et vous aurez une Patrie !

Aux armes, citoyens ...

Foulant aux pieds les droits de l'Homme,
Les soldatesques légions
Des premiers habitants de Rome
Asservirent les nations. (bis)
Un projet plus grand et plus sage
Nous engage dans les combats
Et le Français n'arme son bras
Que pour détruire l'esclavage.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

Oui ! Déjà d'insolents despotes
Et la bande des émigrés
Faisant la guerre aux Sans-culottes
Par nos armes sont altérés ; (bis)
Vainement leur espoir se fonde
Sur le fanatisme irrité,
Le signe de la Liberté
Fera bientôt le tour du monde.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

À vous ! Que la gloire environne,
Citoyens, illustres guerriers,
Craignez, dans les champs de Bellone,
Craignez de flétrir vos lauriers ! (bis)
Aux noirs soupçons inaccessibles
Envers vos chefs, vos généraux,
Ne quittez jamais vos drapeaux,
Et vous resterez invincibles.

Aux armes, citoyens ...

(Couplet des enfants)
Enfants, que l'Honneur, la Patrie
Fassent l'objet de tous nos vœux !
Ayons toujours l'âme nourrie
Des feux qu'ils inspirent tous deux. (bis)
Soyons unis ! Tout est possible ;
Nos vils ennemis tomberont,
Alors les Français cesseront
De chanter ce refrain terrible:

Aux armes, citoyens ...

God of mercy and justice
See our tyrants, judge our hearts
Thy goodness be with us
Defend us from these oppressors (repeat)
You reign in heaven and on earth
And before You all must bend
In your arms, come support us
You Great God, Lord of the thunder.

To arms, citizens ...

French people know thy glory
Crowned by Equality,
What a triumph, what a victory,
To have won Freedom! (repeat)
The God who throws thunder
And who commands the elements,
To exterminate the tyrants
Uses your arm on the ground.

To arms, citizens ...

Of tyranny, we have
Rebuffed the final efforts;
It is banished from our climes;
In France the kings are dead. (repeat)
Forever live the Republic!
Anathema to royalty!
May this refrain sung everywhere,
Defy the politics of kings.

To arms, citizens ...

France that Europe admires
Has regained Liberty
And every citizen breathes
Under the laws of Equality, (repeat)
One day its beloved image
Will extend throughout the universe.
Peoples, you will break your chains
And you will have a Fatherland!

To arms, citizens ...

Trampling on the rights of man,
soldierly legions
The first inhabitants of Rome
enslaved nations. (repeat)
A larger project and wiser
We engage in battle
And the Frenchman only arms himself
In order to destroy slavery.

To arms, citizens ...

Yes! Already insolent despots
And the band of emigrants
Waging war on the sans-culottes [lit. without-breeches]
By our weapons are withered; (repeat)
Vainly their hope is based
On piqued fanaticism
The sign of Liberty
Will soon spread around the world.

To arms, citizens ...

To you! Let glory surround
Citizens, illustrious warriors,
Fear in the fields of Bellona,
Fear the sullying of your laurels! (repeat)
As for dark unfounded suspicions
Towards your leaders, your generals,
Never leave your flags,
And you will remain invincible.

To arms, citizens ...

(Children's Verse)
Children, let Honour and Fatherland
be the object of all our wishes!
Let us always have souls nourished
With fires that might inspire both. (repeat)
Let us be united! Anything is possible;
Our vile enemies will fall,
Then the French will cease
To sing this fierce refrain:

To arms, citizens ...

Notable arrangements[edit]

Score of the opening lines of "La Marseillaise"

"La Marseillaise" was arranged for soprano, chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz in about 1830.[18]

Franz Liszt wrote a piano transcription of the anthem.[19]

During World War I, bandleader James Reese Europe played a jazz version of "La Marseillaise", which can be heard on part 2 of the Ken Burns TV documentary Jazz.

Serge Gainsbourg recorded a reggae version in 1978, titled "Aux armes et cætera".[20]

Jacky Terrasson also recorded a jazz version of "La Marseillaise", included in his 2001 album A Paris.[21]

Adaptations in other musical works[edit]

Notable use in other media[edit]

  • 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.
  • Abel Gance's film Napoléon (1927) features Harry Krimer as Rouget de Lisle and dramatizes the adoption of his song as the revolution's anthem at the Club of the Cordeliers in 1792.
  • 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 (1942) 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.
  • On the January 24, 1977, episode of the Steve Allen PBS fantasy/history talk show Meeting of Minds, Empress Marie Antoinette (played by Allen's wife Jayne Meadows) is introduced and walks onstage to "La Marseillaise", and immediately expresses outrage and distress, explaining that the anthem was that of the revolutionary movement that dethroned and executed herself and husband Louis XVI. Allen as host apologizes profusely for the faux pas.
  • 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.
  • In the biopic La Vie en rose, chronicling the life of Édith Piaf, ten-year-old Édith 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.[25]
  • In the Stanley Kubrick film Paths of Glory (1957), "La Marseillaise" is played instrumentally during the opening credits.
  • The Brisbane Lions Australian Rules football team's theme song has been set to "La Marseillaise" since 1962. Numerous other minor Australian rules football teams also use the song.[26][27]

Historical Russian use[edit]

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.[28]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

The English philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham, who was declared an honorary citizen of France in 1791 in recognition 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.[29]

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.[30] 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.[31]

The British 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".[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "La Marseillaise" (in French). National Assembly of France. Archived from the original on 15 May 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ Stevens, Benjamin F. (January 1896). "Story of La Marseillaise". The Musical Record. Boston, Massachusetts: Oliver Ditson Company (408): 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Plaque Frédéric De Dietrich". Archi-Wiki. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  5. ^ (in French) Louis Spach, Frederic de Dietrich, premier maire de Strasbourg., Strasbourgh, Vve. Berger-Levrault & fils, 1857.
  6. ^ "General François Mireur". Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  7. ^ Wochenblatt, dem Unterricht des Landvolks gewidmet, Colmar 1792 [1].
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b Paul Halsall (1997),Modern History Sourcebook: "La Marseillaise", 1792.[better source needed]
  10. ^ "La Marseillaise, un hymne à l'histoire tourmentée" by Romaric Godin, La Tribune, 20 November 2015 (in French)
  11. ^ Micaela Ovale & Guilia Mazzetto. "Progetti Viotti" (PDF). Guido Rimonda (in Italian). Guido Rimonda. Retrieved 24 August 2019. Basti ricordare che “La Marsigliese” nasce da un tema con variazioni di Viotti scritto nel 1781, ben 11 anni prima della comparsa dell’inno nazionale francese ufficiale (ri-orchestrato da Berlioz con l’aggiunta delle parole da R. De Lisle). Il brano sarà presente nel secondo CD dell’integrale in uscita nel marzo 2013.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Marseillaise" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  14. ^ Wikisource Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). "Marseillaise" . The American Cyclopædia. See also Geschichte eines deutschen Liedes at German Wikisource.
  15. ^ Istel, Edgar (April 1922). "Is the Marseillaise a German composition? (The history of a hoax)". The Musical Quarterly. 8 (2): 213–226. doi:10.1093/mq/viii.2.213. JSTOR 738232.
  16. ^ La Marseillaise, l'Elysée.
  17. ^ The seventh verse was not part of the original text; it was added in 1792 by an unknown author.
  18. ^ William Apthorp (1879) Hector Berlioz; Selections from His Letters, and Aesthetic, Humorous, and Satirical Writings, Henry Holt, New York
  19. ^ L.J. de Bekker (1909) Stokes' Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians, Frederick Stokes, New York
  20. ^ "Scandales du XXe siècle – Gainsbourg métisse 'La Marseillaise'" (1 September 2006) Le Monde, Paris (in French)
  21. ^ "La Marseillaise". Shazam. Apple Inc. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  22. ^ Described and played on BBC Radio 3's CD Review program (14 January 2012)
  23. ^ "La Marsellesa Aprista" Archived 18 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Partido Aprista Peruano, Official Website
  24. ^ Boletín del Comité Central del PSCH N°34–35, April–May 1973.
  25. ^ Archived 28 January 1999 at
  26. ^ "Origins of our Club song". Brisbane Lions. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  27. ^ "Serif's hosting service has now closed!". Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  28. ^ Соболева, Н.А. 2005. Из истории отечественных государственных гимнов. Журнал "Отечественная история", 1. P.10-12 Archived 16 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Bentham, Jeremy (2001). Quinn, Michael (ed.). Writings on the Poor Laws, Vol. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0199242320.
  30. ^ Bremner, Charles (14 May 2014). "Cannes star denounces 'racist' Marseillaise at festival opening". The Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  31. ^ Riding, Alan (5 March 1992). "Aux Barricades! 'La Marseillaise' Is Besieged". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  32. ^ "Simon Schama explains La Marseillaise". BBC News. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]