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La Marseillaise

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La Marseillaise

La Marseillaise
English: The Song of Marseille
La Marseillaise personified on the Arc de Triomphe.

National anthem of  France
Lyrics Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, 1792
Music Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, 1792
Adopted 1795
Music sample

"La Marseillaise" (French pronunciation: ​) is the national anthem of France.

The song was written and composed in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle during the French Revolutionary Wars, and was originally titled "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin". The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795. It acquired its nickname after being sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille marching on the capital.

The song is the first example of the "European march" anthemic style. The anthem's evocative melody and lyrics have led to its widespread use as a song of revolution and its incorporation into many pieces of classical and popular music (see below: Musical quotations). Cerulo says, "the design of 'La Marseillaise' is credited to General Strasburg of France, who is said to have directed de Lisle, the composer of the anthem, to 'produce one of those hymns which conveys to the soul of the people the enthusiasm which it (the music) suggests.' "[1]


Rouget de Lisle, composer of the Marseillaise, sings it for the first time at the home of Dietrich, Mayor of Strasbourg (Musée historique de Strasbourg, published 1849, artist Isidore Pils)

As the French Revolution continued, the monarchies of Europe became concerned that revolutionary fervor would spread to their countries. The War of the First Coalition was an effort to stop the revolution, or at least contain it to France. Initially, the French army did not distinguish itself, and Coalition armies invaded France. On 25 April 1792, the mayor of Strasbourg requested his guest Rouget de Lisle compose a song "that will rally our soldiers from all over to defend their homeland that is under threat".[2] That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin"[3] (English: "War Song for the Army of the Rhine"), and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham.[4] The melody soon became the rallying call to the French Revolution and was adopted as "La Marseillaise" after the melody was first sung on the streets by volunteers (fédérés in French) from Marseille by the end of May. These fédérés were making their entrance into the city of Paris on 30 July 1792 after a young volunteer from Montpellier called François Mireur had sung it at a patriotic gathering in Marseille, and the troops adopted it as the marching song of the National Guard of Marseille.[3] A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoléon Bonaparte and died in Egypt at age 28.

The song's lyric reflects the invasion of France by foreign armies (from Prussia and Austria) that were under way 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. As the vast majority of Alsatians did not speak French, a German version ("Auf, Brüder, auf dem Tag entgegen") was published in October 1792 in Colmar.[5]

Général Mireur, 1770–1798, anonymous, terra cotta, Faculty of Medicine, Montpellier, France.

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France's first anthem.[6] It later lost this status under Napoleon I, and the song was banned outright by Louis XVIII and Charles X, only being re-instated briefly after the July Revolution of 1830.[7] During Napoleon I's reign, "Veillons au Salut de l'Empire" was the unofficial anthem of the regime, and in Napoleon III's reign, it was "Partant pour la Syrie". During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, "La Marseillaise" was recognised as the anthem of the international revolutionary movement; as such, it was adopted by the Paris Commune in 1871. Eight years later, in 1879, it was restored as France's national anthem, and has remained so ever since.


"La Marseillaise" was arranged for soprano, chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz in about 1830.[8]

Franz Liszt wrote a piano transcription of the anthem.[9]

During World War I, bandleader James Reese Europe played a jazz version of "La Marseillaise", which can be heard on Part 2 of the Ken Burns TV documentary Jazz.

Serge Gainsbourg recorded a reggae version in 1978, titled "Aux Armes, Et Caetera".[10]

[11] The tune and lyrics are unrelated to the French original, however.[12]

In Peru and Chile, both the Partido Aprista Peruano ("La Marsellesa Aprista"),[13] and the Socialist Party of Chile ("La Marsellesa Socialista"),[14] wrote their own versions of "La Marseillaise" to be their anthems. Both use the original tune.[15]

Musical quotations

  • Robert Schumann used part of "La Marseillaise" for "Die beiden Grenadiere" (The Two Grenadiers), his 1840 setting (Op. 49, No. 1) of Heinrich Heine's poem "Die Grenadiere". The quotation appears at the end of the song when the old French soldier dies. Schumann also incorporated "La Marseillaise" as a major motif in his overture Hermann und Dorothea, inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and quotes it, in waltz rhythm, in the first movement of Faschingsschwank aus Wien, for solo piano.
  • Richard Wagner also quotes from "La Marseillaise" in his 1839–40 setting of a French translation of Heine's poem.
  • Claude Debussy quoted the anthem in the coda of his piano prelude, Feux d'artifice.
  • Flemish composer Peter Benoit quoted "La Marseillaise" in the overture of his 1876 opera Charlotte Corday.
  • Heitor Villa-Lobos quoted "La Marseillaise" in his 3rd ("War") and 4th ("Victory") Symphonies (both 1919). In the finale of No. 3, fragments of it form a collage with the Brazilian national anthem.
  • Max Steiner weaves quotes from "La Marseillaise" throughout his score for the 1942 film Casablanca. It also forms an important plot element when patrons of Rick's Café Américain, spontaneously led by Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo, sing the actual song to drown out Nazi officers who had started singing "Die Wacht am Rhein", thus causing Rick's to be shut down.
  • The Slovenian music group Laibach released the album "Volk" in 2006, which featured interpretations of various national anthems and included "Francia", a song inspired by "La Marseillaise".

Musical antecedents

Several musical antecedents have been cited for the melody:


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 the official website of the French Presidency.[20]

  • FP National anthem (MP3 audio file, music only).

Bold Is Selected Verses Of The Current Anthem

Additional verses

These verses were omitted from the national anthem .

Historical use in Russia

La Marseillaise performed on a synthesizer.

Problems playing this file? See .

In Russia, La Marseillaise was used as a republican revolutionary anthem by those who knew French starting in the 18th century, almost simultaneously with its adoption in France. In 1875 Peter Lavrov, a narodist revolutionary and theorist, wrote a Russian-language text (not a translation of the French one) to the same melody. This "Worker's Marseillaise" became one of the most popular revolutionary songs in Russia and was used in the Revolution of 1905. After the February Revolution of 1917, it was used as the semi-official national anthem of the new Russian republic. Even after the October Revolution, it remained in use for a while alongside The Internationale.[23]

Criticism and controversy

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a former President of France, has said that it is ridiculous to sing about drenching French fields with impure Prussian blood as a German Chancellor takes the salute in Paris.[24] A 1992 campaign to change the words of the song involving more than 100 prominent French citizens, including Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the then-President François Mitterrand, was unsuccessful.[25]

In popular culture

°Former French-Canadian professional wrestler Dino Bravo,Used the Anthem as His entrance music during his WWE run

See also


  1. ^ Karen A. Cerulo, "Symbols and the world system: national anthems and flags." Sociological Forum (1993) 8#2 pp. 243–271.
  2. ^ "La Marseillaise".  
  3. ^ a b Weber, Eugen (1 June 1976). Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914. Stanford University Press. p. 439.  
  4. ^ Stevens, Benjamin F. (January 1896). "Story of La Marseillaise". The Musical Record (Boston, Massachusetts: Oliver Ditson Company) (408): 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Wochenblatt, dem Unterricht des Landvolks gewidmet, Colmar 1792 [1].
  6. ^ Mould, Michael (2011). The Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French. New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 147.  
  7. ^ Modern History Sourcebook: La Marseillaise, 1792.
  8. ^ Willaim Apthorp (1879) Hector Berlioz; Selections from His Letters, and Aesthetic, Humorous, and Satirical Writings, Henry Holt, New York
  9. ^ L.J. de Bekker (1909) Stokes' Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians, Frederick Stokes, New York
  10. ^ "SCANDALES DU XXe SIÈCLE - Gainsbourg métisse 'La Marseillaise' " (September 1, 2006) Le Monde, Paris (French)
  11. ^ E. John B. Allen (2007) The Culture and Sport of Skiing: From Antiquity to World War II, University of Massachusetts Press
  12. ^ Recording of "For norge, kjaempers Fødeland" at the Library of Congress
  13. ^ "La Marsellesa Aprista", Partido Aprista Peruano, Official Website
  14. ^ Boletín del Comité Central del PSCH N°34-35, April–May, 1973.
  15. ^ YouTube
  16. ^ Described and played on BBC Radio 3's programCD Review (14 January 2012)
  17. ^
  18. ^   See also Geschichte eines deutschen Liedes at German Wikisource.
  19. ^  
  20. ^ La Marseillaise, l’Elysée.
  21. ^ The seventh verse was not part of the original text; it was added in 1792 by an unknown author.
  22. ^ Library of Congress
  23. ^ Соболева, Н.А. 2005. Из истории отечественных государственных гимнов. Журнал "Отечественная история", 1. P.10-12
  24. ^ Bremner, Charles (14 May 2014). "Cannes star denounces ‘racist’ Marseillaise at festival opening".  
  25. ^  
  26. ^
  27. ^ Günther, Dionysios Solomos. Übers. und kommentiert von Hans-Christian (2000). Werke. Stuttgart: Steiner. p. 222.  
  28. ^ Balkan studies: biannual publication of the Institute for Balkan Studies. 1999. p. 101. 
  29. ^ "De lijdensweg van de regering-Leterme" (in Dutch). VRT web site 19 December 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2011.  "Op 21 juli, de nationale feestdag, giet Leterme dan nog eens ongewild olie op het vuur door de Marseillaise te zingen in plaats van de Brabançonne."

Further reading

  • Charles Hughes, "Music of the French Revolution," Science and Society, vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring 1940), pp. 193–210. In JSTOR.

External links

  • The Marseillaise – Official French website (in English)
  • La Marseillaise de Rouget de Lisle – Official site of Élysée – Présidence de la République (in French)
  • Instrumental Version of the French National Anthem
  • Streaming audio of the Marseillaise, with information and links
  • La Marseillaise – Iain Patterson's comprehensive fansite features sheet music, history, and music files. A full length six verse version of the anthem performed by David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra & Chorus can be found in the Berlioz page.
  • Adminet-France
  • Texts on Wikisource:
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