La Marseillaise

"La Marseillaise" (in English The Song of Marseille) is the national anthem of France.


"La Marseillaise" is a song written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg on April 25, 1792. Its original name was "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" ("War Song for the Army of the Rhine") and it was dedicated to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian-born French officer from Cham. It became the rallying call of the French Revolution and received its name because it was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés) from Marseille upon their arrival in Paris after a young volunteer from Montpellier called François Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseille. A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoleon Bonaparte and died in Egypt at 28.

The song's lyrics reflect the invasion of France by foreign armies (from Prussia and Austria) which was ongoing 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.

"La Marseillaise" was screamed during the levée en masse and met with huge success.

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on July 14, 1795, but it was then banned successively by Napoleon I, Louis XVIII, and Napoleon III, only being reinstated 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 during Napoleon III's reign Partant pour la Syrie. In 1879, "La Marseillaise" was restored as the country's national anthem, and has remained so ever since.


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.

Mozart's Piano Concerto n° 25 (KV 503), composed a few years before, in 1786, was probably an inspiration for Rouget de Lisle, as the first 12 notes of the anthem are played at the end of the first movement allegro maestoso (16th-17th minutes).

"La Marseillaise" was re-arranged by Hector Berlioz about 1830.

Robert Schumann, while setting some Heinrich Heine poems to music, used part of the Marseillaise for Heine's "The Two Grenadiers" poem at the end of the piece when the old French soldier dies (Opus 49, No.1). Wagner also quotes from the Marseillaise in his setting of a French translation of the poem. Schumann also incorporated the Marseillaise as a major motif in his overture, 'Hermann und Dorothea' inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Liszt also wrote a piano transcription of the anthem.

In 1882, Pyotr Tchaikovsky used extensive notes from the Marseillaise to represent the invading French army in his 1812 Overture.

Edward Elgar quoted the opening of La Marseillaise in his choral work The Music Makers, 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!.

Serge Gainsbourg recorded a reggae version in 1978.

Henrik Wergeland wrote a Norwegian version of the song in 1831, called The Norwegian Marseillaise.


Note 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 official website of the French Presidency

La Marseillaise

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Arise, children of the Fatherland,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us the tyranny
L'étendard sanglant est levé. (bis) The bloodied banner 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 vos bras They come right here among us
Égorgez vos fils, vos 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 ! Irrigate our furrows!
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 ! Irrigate 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 heads would bow 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 (military) 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...

In popular culture


  • In The Simpsons Movie, the townspeople of Springfield use the tune to write an anthem, declaring that the French have "a few things they do well, like making love, wine and cheese".
  • In the film Ratatouille this melody features in the soundtrack composed by Michael Giacchino.
  • In the 2007 film La Môme, the young Édith Piaf is shown singing the first verse and then the chorus of the song after her father's act re-enacting a true moment of the iconic chanteuse's life.
  • The song is part of a famous scene in the film Casablanca in which French resistance sympathisers use it to drown out the German soldiers who are singing "Die Wacht am Rhein". Various portions of La Marseillaise appear as recurring themes throughout the film, in the opening credits, and at the end of the film, when most of the entire song is played.
  • Abel Gance's film Napoléon features a scene in which the song is first sung by the French masses.
  • On the other hand, the movie The Brothers Grimm which takes place in a German country under French occupation, the same kind of scene can be seen with Germans singing their traditional songs in a tavern only to switch to "La Marseillaise" when French army officers enter. This is actually an error, as "La Marseillaise" was banned during Napoleon's rule.
  • In the 1981 movie, Escape to Victory, the final scene features the entire crowd of the stadium in occupied Paris spontaneously singing La Marseillaise at the end of the game.
  • In the 1937 French movie Grand Illusion, directed by Jean Renoir, that takes place during World War I, a group of French prisoners of war in a German POW camp spontaneously begin singing La Marseillaise in front of their German captors when it is announced that the French Army has won a significant victory. Renoir traced the history of the song in the film he made the following year, "La Marseillaise".
  • In Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World the captain of the ship warns the crew after a poor cannon exercise that their children will end up singing the Marseillaise if they don't improve.
  • In the Blackadder movie Blackadder: Back & Forth, when Blackadder returns from his trip through time, he discovers that England is now under French rule because Napoléon won the Battle Of Waterloo, due to the fact that Blackadder accidentally crushed The Duke Of Wellington with his time machine. As his now-French guests walk up the stairs after conversing with him, they sing the first two lines of La Marseillaise.
  • In the film of The Day of the Jackal, the final assassination attempt on Charles De Gaulle's life occurs during a military ceremony, with " La Marseillaise" playing on the soundtrack.


Video games

  • In the Nintendo Entertainment System game Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, the fighter Glass Joe uses part of the song as his ring theme.
  • In the video game Dynamite Cop, whenever a player confronts a huge chef name Alexander, a piece of the French national anthem can be heard first in the music.
  • Also featured in Sid Meier's Civilization I,Civilization IV and Civilization Revolution as diplomatic music for the French civilization.
  • Featured in Worms (series) during use of the "Sheep Strike" weapon in which flaming sheep are unleashed via airplane on the selected target before exploding into flames.
  • In Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich, a French Resistance member sings the song when he is to be executed. Sabrine Tricolette, a French fencer brainwashed by Blitzkrieg, tries to silence him, but then she sees the tricolored French flag on his scarf. This reminder of her beloved country shatters the hold that Blitzkrieg has held over her, and she becomes the heroine Tricolour.


  • The Brisbane Lions Australian rules football (AFL) team theme song "The Pride of Brisbane Town".
  • The carillon of the town hall in the Bavarian town of Cham plays "La Marseillaise" every day at 12.05 p.m. to commemorate the French Marshal Nicolas Luckner, who was born there.
  • Hong Kong singer Hacken Lee integrated the anthem as an opening to his World Cup 1998 theme song "The Strange Encounters of a Soccer Fan."
  • An English language 'rugby song' version exists, as known in France among rugby fans.
  • In Monty Python's Broadway musical Spamalot when confronted by French knights in the song "Run Away!"
  • The 19th-century Labour movement used a "Worker Marseillaise" (written 1864 by Jakob Audorf) that was later replaced by The Internationale. It was famously sung on the way to the gallows by those sentenced to death after the Haymarket Riot.
  • The song's theme was used by Jacques Offenbach in his Opera "Orpheus in the Underworld" to illustrate a revolution amongst the Olympic gods and goddesses with the lines "Aux armes Dieux et Demi-Dieux".
  • The British comedy series 'Allo 'Allo! spoofed Casablanca by having the patriotic French characters start singing "La Marseillaise", only to switch to Deutschlandlied when Nazi officers enter their cafe.
  • Also featured in Isaac Asimov's short SF story Battle-hymn about how the national anthem is used as a subliminal advertising ploy.
  • Featured in the Monty Python sketches, "A Man with a Tape Recorder up His Nose" and "A Man with a Tape Recorder up His Brother's Nose" and also "French Lecture on Sheep-aircraft"
  • In the cartoon I Am Weasel, when a baboon tries to make a transatlantic bridge from the United States to France, he mistakenly builds it to Mexico. When he reaches the end, he sings a song with a similar tune.


See also

External links

Official French government sites

Other sites

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