Music: National Anthems: Marseillaise


I rejected Cameron Sawyer' scathing condemnation of Schiller's "Hymn to Joy" as the EU Anthem. From the UK George Sassoon writes: Yes, to some extent I agree.  I took the opportunity of downloading a number of national anthems from that web site and concluded that the best tunes are all irredeemably racist, sexist, and militarist - like the Marseillaise!  Perhaps the best was the anthem of the Red Army, from a Croatian web site which I
also found.  What does Cameron think of this?" 

RH: The most violent national anthem is "La Marseillaise".  The conservative Chirac government has launched a campaign to have schoolchildren learn it as part of the French heritage. I hope the protesting singers do not decide to get rid of the impure blood of Chirac and co. The most attractive national anthem I know is the Brazilian one, with its stress on the love of humanity.

Daryl DeBell writes: Since my menu French does not give me any understanding of the lyrics of the French national anthem, I cannot comment on its bellicosity, but I take it for granted that those who criticize it are correct. The French are after all big on 'gloire'. The music however is the most beautiful and stirring of any anthem I am familiar with, and I would regret its loss. New  lyrics set to the same music could solve the problem. They could celebrate the beauty of the French landscape, the contributions of French cuisine, literature, art, science, and music, and even the French love of country. A reference to their contribution to political thought and democracy would not be amiss either.

RH: It could begin "Allons, philosophes du 18e siècle" --Let's go, 18th-century philosophers. Daryl's suggestion is excellent, but I doubt that the French would adopt it.

Adriana Pena writes: The problem with the Marseillaise lyrics is much worse than calls to "la gloire".  Look a these verses:

Marchons, Marchons
qu'un sang impur
abreuve nos sillons

Let's march, let's march
Let impure blood
water our crops...

It is downright bloodthirsty...  Now the tune it is quite catchy.  Same as Ca ira:

Ah, ca ira, ca ira, ca ira
les aristocrats a la lanterne
ah, ca ira, ca ira, ca ira
les aristocrats on les pendra.

Oh, they'll go, they'll go, they'll go
the aristocrats to the lamppost
oh, they'll go, they'll go, they'll go,
the aristocrats, we'll hang them...

Daryl DeBell lamented the bellicosity of the Marseillaize, but added: The music however is the most beautiful and stirring of any anthem I am familiar with, and I would regret its loss. New  lyrics set to the same music could solve the problem. They could celebrate the beauty of the French landscape, the contributions of French cuisine, literature, art, science, and music, and even the French love of country. A reference to their contribution to political thought and democracy would not be amiss either. I cemmented: It could begin "Allons, philosophes du 18e siècle" --Let's go, 18th-century philosophers. Daryl's suggestion is excellent, but I doubt that the French would adopt it.

George Sassoon says: I agree, but again there is a problem with scansion.  "Philosophes du dix-huitieme siecle" has rather more syllables than "enfants de la patrie". Oh, comment c'est difficile, rewriting national anthems for political correctness!  Maybe a reference to "La France, pays des gastronautes" might go down better with them, combining as it does gastronomy and space travel. RH: Since rewriting the Marseillaise is an exercise in futility, I abstain from making other suggestions. However, the words "la gloire" are sacrosanct.

Hungarian Steve Torok writes:  I must say something since the historical tradition of the French Revolution was dear to us Hungarian students in 1956 to the extent that I marched with the students of Debrecen University on the 23rd of October on Old Peterfis St towards the City Center from the University singing the Marseillaise in French (others sang it in Hungarian!) and felt the words appropriate -- even if a bit dated! Any change would be historical falsification. Vive la Revolution!  RH: Careful, Steve!  This call for revolution could get you banned under the Patriot Act.


A posting asserted that the Marseillaise and the Internationale were the mos beautiful (inter)national anthems.  It turns out that they are related.  Alejo Orvañanos writes: The Internationale (L'Internationale in French) is the most famous socialist song and one of the most widely recognized songs in the world. The original (French) words were written in 1870 by Eugène Pottier (18161887, later a member of the Paris Commune). Pierre Degeyter (18481932) set the poem to music in 1888. (It was originally intended to be sung to the tune of La Marseillaise.)

Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Internationale


Ronald Hilton 2005

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last updated: April 13, 2005