La Marseillaise

Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836)

“Allons enfants de la Patrie…”

La Marseillaise

(English translation by Pierre Gay, 1998)
enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L’étendard sanglant est levé !
L’étendard sanglant est levé !
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils et nos compagnes !
children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody standard is raised
Bloody standard is raised
Can you hear in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers?
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts!

armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !


To arms, citizens,
Form in battalions,
March, march!
Let impure blood
Water our furrows!

veut cette horde d’esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ?
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ?
Français, pour nous, ah! quel outrage !
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C’est nous qu’on ose méditer
De rendre à l’antique esclavage !
(au Refrain)
do they want this horde of slaves
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings?
For whom these vile chains
These long-prepared irons?
These long-prepared irons?
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What methods must be taken?
It is we they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!
! ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient !
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
(au Refrain)
What! These
foreign cohorts!
They would make laws in our homes!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would cut down our proud warriors
Would cut down our proud warriors
Good Lord! By chained hands
Our brow would yield under the yoke
Some vile despots would have
themselves be
The masters of our destinies!
tyrans et vous perfides,
L’opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix !
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix !
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 !
(au Refrain)
tyrants and traitors
The shame of all good men
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their just reward
Will finally receive their just reward
Against you, everyone is a soldier,
If they fall, our young heros,
France will bear new ones
Ready to join the fight against you!
en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Epargnez ces tristes victimes,
A regret s’armant contre nous.
A regret s’armant contre nous.
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !
(au Refrain)
as magnanimous warriors
Bear or hold back your wounds!
Spare these sad victims,
Who regret to take up arms against us.
Who regret to take up arms
against us.
But not these bloody despots,
These accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who pitilessly,
Ripped out their mothers’ wombs!
sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs !
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs !
Combats avec tes défenseurs !
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents !
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
(au Refrain)
love of the fatherland,
Drive and support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished liberty,
Struggle with your defenders.
Struggle with your defenders.
Under our flags, let victory
Hurry to your male tone
So that your agonising enemies
See your triumph and our glory!
entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus.
Et la trace de leurs vertus.
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre !
(au Refrain)
shall enter into the pit
When our elders will have gone,
There we shall find their ashes
And the mark of their virtues.
And the mark of their virtues.
Much less jealous of surviving them
Than of sharing their coffins,
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or joining them.



Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle

They handed him the job and he did it in one night. When Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle was asked to do a simple job of writing a basic marching song, who would have suspected that he would come up with a tune that would contribute to the fervor sweeping France during the Revolution. Eventually La Marseillaise became the national anthem of France.

Born in 1760 in Lons-le-Saunier, France, Rouget de Lisle is a man about whom not much is known. He was neither a political figure nor a famous musician, yet, while serving as a Captain of the Engineers, he composed a song that inspired the Rhine Army to reclaim Paris. Ironically, the truth about de Lisle is that he was a royalist and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new constitution. He was then imprisoned and only escaped the guillotine because of the fact that he composed the famous song. Before his death in 1836, de Lisle wrote several novels and operas, none of which would ever achieve the success of La Marseillaise.



About La Marseillaise

La Marseillaise was originally divided into seven verses and a chorus. Most people are familiar only with the first verse and the chorus, and the tempo of the song has also been modified over time. Nevertheless, from time to time, French political leaders have requested that the song be played in its entirety using its original tempo. If one carefully listens to the song in its original tempo, slower than the modern version, one can almost feel the breeze of history blowing through the words.

On the night of April 25th 1792, Rouget de Lisle, as a member of the Rhine Army, was stationed in Strasbourg. France had just declared war on Austria and Prussia and the army was preparing to march on Paris. The mayor of Strasbourg approached de Lisle about composing a simple song that would serve as a marching tune for this march. It was first introduced when it was played at a patriotic banquet where it caputred everyone’s attention with its catchy hook and melody. Then, printed copies were given to the revolutionary forces. They entered Paris singing this song, and marched to the Tuileries on August 10th of that same year. It was accepted as the official national anthem of France shortly thereafter on July 14, 1795 by the Convention. The song was banned by Napoleon III during the Empire and by Louis XVIII during the Second Restoration of 1815. Napoleon’s decision was based on the song’s revolutionary character and its dangerous revolutionary association. In 1830 Napoleon III had to ban it again since it was brought back by the authorities after the revolution in the July of 1830. It was finally oficially restored in 1879.

The song was originally entitled Chant de guerre de l’armeé du Rhin (in English: War Song of the Army of the Rhine). However, it became so popular with volunteer army units from Marseilles, it was simply renamed after the location of those units. And so it came to be called La Marseillaise, an anthem which is extremely special to the people of France and the Francophone world.