La Marseillaise

La Marseillaise, the French national anthem was composed this day on April 24, 1792, by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, an amateur violinist.

Along with being a part time musician, he was an officer in the French army during the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1792, Monsieur Rouget de Lisle was stationed in Strasbourg in Eastern France. The mayor of Strasbourg asked him to compose a song that would rally the troops and inspire them to defend and protect their homeland from foreign invasion (Prussia and Austria were two invading armies at the time). He accomplished the writing and composition of music in one evening!

La Marseillaise got its name because it was sung by volunteer troops from Marseille who marched in Paris. Then it became very popular during the French Revolution and was adopted as the national anthem in 1795 making it France’s first national anthem.

As one discovers walking around Paris, streets, metro stops, and parks are named after very famous individuals and Avenue Rouget de Lisle is one that I always notice as I stroll the rue Rivoli near the Louvre. I always start humming the anthem when I see the street name in Paris!

Here is a translation of the first verse of La Marseillaise with the chorus. It is easy to see why it became such a stirring and powerful song of patriotism:

Let’s go children of the fatherland,

The day of glory has arrived!

Against us tyranny’s
 Bloody flag is raised! (repeat)

In the countryside, do you hear 
The roaring of these fierce soldiers?

They come right to our arms
 To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!

Refrain

Grab your weapons, citizens!

Form your battalions!

Let us march! Let us march!

Let impure blood
water our fields!

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