Monday, July 14th — La Marseillaise

July 14, 2008

*a special early Bastille Day post!*

Today I Learned…

The rest of the lyrics to the best national anthem in the world, France’s La Marseillaise.  There are apparently six verses although only the first is usually sung, and if any of the other verses are ever song, it’s only the fifth and sixth.

I argue that this is the greatest national anthem for two main reasons.  First, what it actually means, which is downright incredible.  Remember, this was written in 1792, right after the bloodiest years of the French Revoluton.  That blood definitely makes its way into the song lyrics — yielding English translations like “Let us march and may their tainted blood soak our furrows.”  Downright incredible.  Second, it is prominently featured in perhaps the greatest scene in perhaps the greatest movie of all time, in Rick’s in Casablanca when all of the French ex-pats begin singing it much to the dismay of the German officers.  That scene gives me goosebumps every time I see it.

And now, for your edification, La Marseillaise, en sa totalité.  Vive la France!

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Arise, children of our country,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us the bloodied banner
L’étendard sanglant est levé. (bis) Of tyranny 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 nos bras They come right here among us
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes ! To slaughter our 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 ! Soak our furrows!
Aux armes, citoyens ! To arms, citizens!
Formons nos bataillons ! Let us form our battalions!
Marchons, marchons ! Let us march, let us march!
Qu’un sang impur May their tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Soak our furrows!
Que veut cette horde d’esclaves, What does this horde of slaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ? Of traitors and conspirating kings want?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves For whom 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 us 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! These 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 Good Lord! By chained hands
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient Our fronts would yield under the yoke
De vils despotes deviendraient The 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 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 sad 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 ! Ripped out 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 nos ennemis expirants So that our enemies, in their last breath,
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 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 keen to survive them
Que de partager leur cercueil, As 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…

Further Reading…

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