La Marseillaise – Vive la France!

The blessed one: Claude Rouget de Lisle (oft credited with Rouget de Lisle; de Lisle)
 
The stake to claim in posterity: as the national anthem of France.

Listen to it during this World Cup 2006 when the France team is playing. It’s cool.

 
Did you know: When first written for the French Revolution armies, it was known as ‘Chant de guerre de l’Armée du Rhin’. But the French 1st and 2nd Republics banned its usage as did the other dynasties of the 19th century like the Habsburg Empire who feared the revolutionary feelings this song can potentially stoke especially when the age of nationalism has come to Europe in the mid-19th century. Johann Strauss II allegedly went to the courts for playing this song in public with his orchestra and composers like Robert Schumann, for fear of facing the censors’ wrath, hid elements of the song into their own musical creations, such as the Overture to ‘Hermann und Dorothea’. Lesser men went to the guillotine and off with their heads if caught singing this in public. Pyotr Tchaikovsky did have the luxury of appending various parts of his ‘1812 Overture’ with bits of the song and made it an unqualified success, though.
 
This song became an instant revolutionary catalyst, however and the 1840s Europe were to feel the effects that the spirit which this song (among others) has created back in the 18th century when emperors and kings were overthrown (exiled) and new order called the republics were to be the new world order and would have certainly led to the redrawing of the map of Europe we are well too familiar with today. 
 
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Take Malaysia’s ‘Negaraku’. Besides the slow ‘ode to the moon’ kind of lullaby tune, even the title has taken on almost cheeky touch to it by also alluding to a certain bulge underneath an ‘excited’ man’s trousers of the physiological kind. Any attempts to up the tempo has not made Malaysian pride swell that little bit more (no pun intended with regards to the previous line) and various unofficial arrangements have been clamped down hard by authorities.
 
There is still the stirring ‘La Marseillaise’ courtesy of one of the Western powers in the world, France to appraise and that not all national anthems of the world are of the humdrum type.
 
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Obviously and lovingly sung in French, the general lyrics are gruesome in detail, with ready references to the French people’s love for waging wars and the sanguine. Basically, a call to arms to the French people, with so-called consequences if the French did not raise arms and defend their homeland. It’s kind of sing-song if you think of it as each verse repeats the same bloody results. This is especially so when historically, France were without a sovereign king during the French Revolution (King Louis XVI was deposed and was guillotined) and France was vulnerable to another foreign country invasion, like e.g the Austrian Habsburgs or the Prussians or even the despised English. So, to encourage the populace to defend the motherland, this song best serve its political purpose.

Lyrics (first verse only as sung by Les Bleus during soccer matches):

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé,
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L’étendard sanglant est levé, (x2/bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces ferocés soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras,
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes

(Chorus/call to arms phrase):-
 
‘Aux armes citoyens!
Formez vos battaillons
Marchons, marchons,
Qu’un sang impur,
Abreuve nos sillons!’
 
is the typical ‘gimme victory or gimme death’ call but nonetheless, very masterfully done. The entire song is in the key of G major with some flirtations with G minor for a small bit.
 
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How to get it: Hop on over to http://www.marseillaise.org/english/audio.html and grab Mireille Mathieu’s performance from heaven version. Don’t I love the French just that little bit more after hearing it. Get a download manager to help the awfully slow transfer rate. In this page, you can also find the complete English translations as well as the original French lyrics. Visit also Wikipedia’s entry about ‘La Marseillaise’ to know more about its history. Not many mp3 versions exist, though as more often than not, instrumental versions are all there is. So, Mathieu’s performance in vocals is a treasure. Well, try to learn a little correct French pronunciation while you’re about it.

Vive la France! Vive la Patrie!


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