May 08, 2007

La Marseillaise

The presidential election led me to make some comments about the French national anthem, "la Marseillaise". It has again (as well as the French flag) since some time been brought back to fashion and has actually been sung during the meetings of most of the involved political parties, right, centre or left. Since 2005 it is again compulsory to teach the song in French schools.
It was written in 1792 by Rouget de Lisle, who was more of an army officer than a composer and songwriter. It has been discussed if the music is really by him and in any case it has been rearranged by more professional musicians. It is even said that the first notes can be recognised in one of Mozart's piano concerts (KV 503), composed six years earlier.
Now to the lyrics which with our ears sound quite violent; this was of course a war and revolutionary song.
There are several verses, all equally violent, but let's just have a look on the chorus:
To arms, citizens!
Form your batallions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May tainted blood
water our fields!
There are different interpretations of the "tainted blood". The perhaps somewhat nicer version is to say that the "tainted blood" is to make the difference with the "pure (blue) blood" of the royalty and the nobility, so the "tainted blood" would be the blood of those who fight and resist, thus not referring to enemies, foreigners.
In any case, the wording is not quite in line with what we wish to hear today, but the song is such a symbol that the text can hardly be changed, although several tries have been made, including by Victor Hugo.
To finish, let's remember that the Beatles song "All we need is love" starts with "la Marseillaise".


Shionge said...

Yes, it is the same for us we were taught to sing our National Anthem when we were young too.

This is so interesting, thankyou.

Seda said...

This is really interesting. Thanks for information...
And thank you for your nice comments on my and your blog...I really enjoyed having a nice dialogue. Hope I wasn't misunderstood for sometimes I may sound passionate in writing.
Istanbul Photo

Olivier said...

voila un bon sujet. personnellement je ne comprends pas trop ce qui gene dans ce chant. c'est un chant historique, qui a porte la france à la revolution française, c'est un des moments les plus importans de l'histoire française, et ce chant en represente l'esprit. pourquoi vouloir le changer ?.
parcontre que chacun le revisite (comme hendrix avec l'hymne americain ou comme Oberkampf avec notre hymne) ça oui.

De toute façon, cela sert vraiment à quoi un hymne national ?

Nathalie said...

As a child I used to sing the Marseillaise without even thinking. Today I find it hard to get those words past my lips. too violent. Love the lyrics though!

hpy said...

Du gamla du fria du fjallhoga nord...

Nathalie said...

Now I have a message for seda, regarding the entry of Turkey in the EU. Sorry I missed the earlier exchange on that subject a couple of days ago.

I am ferociously European and strongly believe this is France's way forward. But if we want a true Europe to exist, we need to create between the people of all member countries a sense of brotherhood. They need to feel comfortable about their fellow Europeans.

Creating Europe means giving away some of your own specific national laws, habits, rules or benefits in the name of the greater good - while also benefiting in other ways.

It's a considerable achievement already that France now sees Germany as its best ally considering the hundreds of years of war between the two countries. And the same feeling of brotherhood now exists with Italy, Spain, Belgium and other close neighbours. When you think of it, it's been a fast paced process!

But it's far more fetched to feel the same towards Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia or Poland,for example, whose languages we don't learn at school, whose countries few of us have visited and know anything about. It's Terra incognita out there for most of us.

My own feeling is that the French are a bit scared that we've already bitten more than we can chew< I think this is the real meaning behind the NO to the referendum on Europe last year.

We were asked to AT THE SAME TIME
1. give more powers to European institutions
2. expand the borders even further and include more countries

The French are stalling.
It's unfair for Turkey which in my opinion has no less reasons to belong to Europe than Latvia has!!!!

I don't know what the solution is, apart from time. I think we need a bit of time. In the mean time, develop contacts, exchanges, business, anything that will bring us closer.

In the meantime, let me congratulate you seda for your own achievement in putting yourself in the European group, loved your story!

I hope my comments make sense and help you put things in perspective. I've always found that the best thing about exchanging is that it helps you understand each other's viewpoints.

Peter said...

Oi maamme, Suomi, synnyinmaa...

... et Serge Gainsbourg (Aux armes etc...), Yannick Noah (Oh rêve...) etc.

Nothing wrong about being passionate - as long as it goes with tolerance. I guess we all learnt a lot from your yesterday's messages.

I guess the national anthems are discussed in many countries. They were written in another context. Let's take them for what they are and sometimes listen to them in some kind of second degree.

Peter said...


Your summing up of the European and Turkey issue is very nice, quite complete and, I feel, resumes well the situation. (Obviously it is not because you have spent many years outside Europe that you have lost the European "feeling".) I hope seda will read it (I put a word on her blog about it).

Cergie said...

Félicitations pour ce message et celui du dessus.
La marseillaise il faut la remettre dans son contexte
Il y a des études faites sur les hymnes nationaux qui sont guerriers en général
L'hymne allemand a été revu et corrigé après la fin de la 2ème guerre justement
Le peuple allemand a souffert aussi et a besoin de fierté
Il a du mal à sortir les drapeaux par exemple
Aujourd'hui il faut se souvenir, ce qui veut dire ne pas oublier le passé, et essayer d'avancer main dans la main tous les peuples ensemble

Peter said...

Oui cergie, aujourd'hui doit être consideré comme un jour pour célébrer la paix, non "la victoire". Je crois que c'est déjà plus ou moins le cas.

hpy said...

Vart land vart land vart potatisland dar vaxer ogras ibland...

Seda said...

Nathalie: Thanks for taking time to comment about this issue. I always value different opinion and I totally understand the reason of hesitation; what I was trying to say yesterday is what you say today:

"The French are stalling.
It's unfair for Turkey which in my opinion has no less reasons to belong to Europe than Latvia has!!!!

However; when I was in college, one of my core classes was History of Western Culture and for 4 weeks we only tried to define the word "west"... What I am trying to say is concept of "west" is not easy to define.

That's why, it is not fair to judge Turkey as being non-Western. If Latvia can be excepted as European, why cannot Turkey be excepted? As a nation, that is our prior question to EU.

We are not denying our Anatolian (NOT Asian) heritage. Actually we are proud of it. Do you know most of the philosophers' birth and living place was Anatolia? Those men, those Anatolian men, are excepted as the founder of Western philosophy and culture. So it is not about not being European enough; it is about something else...

If it is about the fear of expanding the borders, it should be announced out loud officially that no other country should be part of EU for long years anymore...If not, we just suspect something else is going on and it cannot be good...

And these kind of paranoia doesn't do any good to any country...

And one more thing, settling down for less just breaks Turkey's hopes. It seems like all excuses to Turkey. (It is a common view- not my personal view)

Peter said...


Shall I make the English translation?

I believe that it would be interesting if you could develop especially this "Anatolian heritage" on your blog.

April said...

It's a wonderful melody, this French national anthem. I like it. We Germans have a bit difficulties to sing ours ...

Cergie said...

Tu vois, j'avais raison / l'hymne et la fierté à reconquérir des Allemands. April le confirme.