Partant pour la Syrie

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"Partant pour la Syrie" (French pronunciation: ​[paʁtɑ̃ puʁ la siʁi]; English: Departing for Syria) is a French patriotic song, the music of which was written by Hortense de Beauharnais[1] and the text by Alexandre de Laborde in or about 1807.


The song was inspired by Napoleon's Egypt campaign. It represents a chivalric composition of the aspirations of a crusader knight in a style typical for the First French Empire. Hortense (Napoleon's stepdaughter and mother to Napoleon III) indicated in her Memoires that she wrote the music when she lived at Malmaison. During its popularity in the nineteenth century the song was arranged for numerous instruments by various composers.

The poem by Laborde was originally titled Le beau Dunois telling the story of the handsome crusader Dunois. Prior to his departure to Syria he prays to the Virgin Mary that he will love the most beautiful woman and that he himself may be the bravest. His prayers are answered. On his return the brave warrior wins the hand of Isabelle. Love and honor prevail.


The song was popular during the remainder of the First Empire, with Hortense in her exile at Arenenberg, and with the Bonapartists during the Bourbon Restoration. Partant pour la Syrie was the unofficial national anthem during the Second Empire, during which La Marseillaise was regarded with suspicion.[2] After the collapse of the Second Empire the song was played to the Emperor Napoleon III as he departed from Schloss Wilhelmshöhe to his exile in England in 1871, but by the time of Empress Eugénie's funeral in 1920 the band did not know it and played La Marseillaise instead.[3] Partant pour la Syrie did however achieve a posthumous fame as one of the quoted tunes in "Fossils" from Camille Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals, written in 1886 but not published until 1922.

It remains part of the repertoire of French military music.[dubious ]


Partant pour la Syrie,
Le jeune et beau Dunois,
Venait prier Marie
De bénir ses exploits :
Faites, Reine immortelle,
Lui dit-il en partant,
Que j'aime la plus belle
Et sois le plus vaillant.

Il trace sur la pierre
Le serment de l'honneur,
Et va suivre à la guerre
Le Comte son seigneur ;
Au noble vœu fidèle,
Il dit en combattant :
Amour à la plus belle,
Honneur au plus vaillant.

On lui doit la Victoire.
Vraiment, dit le seigneur ;
Puisque tu fais ma gloire
Je ferai ton bonheur.
De ma fille Isabelle,
Sois l'Epoux à l'instant,
Car elle est la plus belle,
Et toi le plus vaillant.

A l'Autel de Marie,
Ils contractent tous deux
Cette union Chérie
Qui seule rend heureux.
Chacun dans la chapelle
Disait en les voyant :
Amour à la plus belle,
Honneur au plus vaillant.

Going to Syria
The young and handsome Dunois
Went to ask the Virgin Mary,
His heroic deeds to bless,
Make it so, immortal Queen
He said on his leaving,
That I love the most beautiful woman
And be the bravest

He writes on stone
The oath of honor
And follows into war
The earl, his lord.
The noble desire faithfulness
He said to his fighter:
Love to the most beautiful woman
Honor to the bravest

We owe you the victory
Verily! says the lord,
Since you have established my glory,
I will make you happy!
My daughter Isabella
Will be your wife
For she is the most beautiful woman
And you the bravest

At the altar of Mary,
They pledged both
This dear union
Which makes the lonely happy.
Everyone in the chapel
Said seeing them:
Love to most beautiful woman
Honor to the bravest.


  1. ^ By her own account; Arthur Pougin proposed Louis Drouet as a more plausible candidate but Pougin's motives have since been impugned.
  2. ^ In Verne's Une ville flottante (1871) a pianist meets vigorous remonstrations from Americans who had requested the French national anthem, expecting La Marseillaise.
  3. ^ Ian Ousby: The Road to Verdun (Doubleday 2002 ISBN 978-0385503938) footnote p167 [it's not clear this was a French band, though: Eugénie died in Spain and was buried in England]
  • Baguley, David. Napoleon III and His Regime: An Extravaganza. Louisiana State University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8071-2624-1

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