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"La Marseillaise"
English title The Song of Marseille
Composer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

"La Marseillaise" (English: "The Song from Marseille"; French pronunciation: ​[la maʁsɛjɛz]) is the national anthem of France. The song, originally titled "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" (English: "War Song for the Army of the Rhine") was written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795. The name of the song is due to first being sung on the streets by volunteers from Marseille.

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).


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".[1] That evening, Rouget de Lisle wrote Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin[2] and dedicated the song to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian in French service from Cham.[3] 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.[2] A newly graduated medical doctor, Mireur later became a general under Napoléon Bonaparte and died in Egypt at age 28.

The song's lyrics reflect the invasion of France by foreign armies (from Prussia and Austria) that were underway 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.

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

La Marseillaise as represented on the Arc de Triomphe.

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed on 14 July 1795, making it France's first anthem.[4] 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.[5] 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.

Franz Liszt wrote a piano transcription of the anthem.

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".

Henrik Wergeland wrote a Norwegian version of the song in 1831, called "The Norwegian Marseillaise".

In Peru and Chile, both the Partido Aprista Peruano and the Socialist Party of Chile wrote their own versions of "La Marseillaise" to be their anthems.

Musical quotations

  • During the French Revolution, Giuseppe Cambini published Patriotic Airs for Two Violins, in which the song is quoted literally and as a variation theme, with other patriotic songs.
  • Gioachino Rossini quotes "La Marseillaise" in the second act of his opera Semiramide (1823).
  • 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.
  • Giuseppe Verdi quotes from "La Marseillaise" in his patriotic anthem Hymn of the Nations, which also incorporates "God Save the King" and "Il Canto degli Italiani". In his 1944 film, the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini also incorporated "The Internationale" for the Soviet Union and "The Star-Spangled Banner" representing the United States.
  • In 1882, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky quoted "La Marseillaise" to represent the invading French army in his 1812 Overture. He also quoted the Russian national anthem he was familiar with, to represent the Russian army. However, neither of these anthems was actually in use in 1812.
  • In 1896, Umberto Giordano briefly quoted the anthem in his opera Andrea Chénier.
  • Claude Debussy quoted the anthem in the coda of his piano prelude, Feux d'artifice.
  • Edward Elgar quoted the opening of "La Marseillaise" in his choral work The Music Makers, Op. 69 (1912), based on Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode, at the line "We fashion an empire's glory", where he also quoted the opening phrase of "Rule, Britannia!".
  • 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.
  • Dmitri Shostakovich quoted "La Marseillaise" at some length during the fifth reel of the film score he composed for the 1929 silent movie, The New Babylon (set during the Paris Commune), where it is juxtaposed contrapuntally with the famous "Can-can" from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.[6]
  • 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.
  • Django Reinhardt released in 1946 a jazz version of La Marseillaise in his song Echoes of France.
  • The Beatles hit single of 1967, "All You Need Is Love", used the opening bars of "La Marseillaise" as an introduction.
  • Serge Gainsbourg released in 1979 a reggae version of La Marseillaise in his song Aux armes et cætera.
  • In 2009, thrash metal band Metallica played their version of "La Marseillaise" as an intro to "Master of Puppets". This was recorded live as part of their DVD Français Pour Une Nuit ("French for a Night") from Nîmes.

Musical antecedents

Several musical antecedents have been cited for the melody:

  • Mozart's Allegro maestoso of Piano Concerto No. 25[7]
  • the credo of the fourth mass of Holtzmann of Mursberg[8]
  • the Oratorio Esther by Jean Baptiste Lucien Grison[9]


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.[10]

La Marseillaise

French lyrics English translation
Allons enfants de la Patrie, Arise, children of the Fatherland,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us tyranny
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis) Raises its bloody banner (repeat)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes Do you hear, in the countryside,
Mugir ces féroces soldats ? The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras They're coming right into your arms
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes ! To cut the throats of your sons and women!
Aux armes, citoyens, To arms, citizens,
Formez vos bataillons, Form your battalions,
Marchons, marchons ! Let's march, let's march!
Qu'un sang impur Let an impure blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Water our furrows! (repeat)
Que veut cette horde d'esclaves, What does this horde of slaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ? Of traitors and conjured kings want?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves, For whom are these vile chains,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis) These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter ! What fury it must arouse!
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer It is us they dare plan
De rendre à l'antique esclavage ! To return to the old slavery!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères What! Foreign cohorts
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers ! Would make the law in our homes!
Quoi ! Ces phalanges mercenaires What! These mercenary phalanxes
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis) Would strike down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Grand Dieu ! Par des mains enchaînées Great God ! By chained hands
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient Our brows would yield under the yoke
De vils despotes deviendraient Vile despots would have themselves
Les maîtres de nos destinées ! The masters of our destinies!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides Tremble, tyrants and you traitors
L'opprobre de tous les partis, The shame of all parties,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis) Will finally receive their reward! (repeat)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre, Everyone is a soldier to combat you
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros, If they fall, our young heroes,
La terre en produit de nouveaux, The earth will produce new ones,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre ! Ready to fight against you!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Français, en guerriers magnanimes, Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Portez ou retenez vos coups ! You bear or hold back your blows!
Épargnez ces tristes victimes, You spare those sorry victims,
À regret s'armant contre nous. (bis) Who arm against us with regret. (repeat)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires, But not these bloodthirsty despots,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé, These accomplices of Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié, All these tigers who, mercilessly,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère ! Rip their mother's breast!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Amour sacré de la Patrie, Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs Lead, support our avenging arms
Liberté, Liberté chérie, Liberty, cherished Liberty,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis) Fight with thy defenders! (repeat)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire Under our flags, shall victory
Accoure à tes mâles accents, Hurry to thy manly accents,
Que tes ennemis expirants That thy expiring enemies,
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire ! See thy triumph and our glory!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
(Couplet des enfants) (Children's Verse)
Nous entrerons dans la carrière[11] We shall enter the (military) career
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus, When our elders are no longer there,
Nous y trouverons leur poussière There we shall find their dust
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis) And the trace of their virtues (repeat)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre Much less keen to survive them
Que de partager leur cercueil, Than to share their coffins,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil We shall have the sublime pride
De les venger ou de les suivre Of avenging or following them
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
English versification, public domain[12]

Ye sons of France, awake to glory,
Hark, hark! what myriads bid you rise!
Your children, wives and white-haired grandsires.
Behold their tears and hear their cries! (repeat)
Shall hateful tyrants, mischiefs breeding,
With hireling hosts, a ruffian band,
Affright and desolate the land,
While peace and liberty lie bleeding?
To arms, to arms, ye brave!
The avenging sword unsheath,
March on, march on!
All hearts resolv'd
On victory or death!
Now, now, the dangerous storm is rolling
Which treacherous kings confederate raise!
The dogs of war, let loose, are howling,
And lo! our fields and cities blaze! (repeat)
alt: And lo! our homes will soon invade!
And shall we basely view the ruin
While lawless force with guilty stride
Spreads desolation far and wide
With crimes and blood his hands embruing?
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...
With luxury and pride surrounded
The vile insatiate despots dare,
Their thirst of power and gold unbounded,
To mete and vend the light and air! (repeat)
Like beasts of burden would they load us,
Like gods would bid their slaves adore,
But man is man, and who is more?
Then shall they longer lash and goad us?
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...
O Liberty, can man resign thee
Once having felt thy generous flame?
Can dungeons, bolts or bars confine thee
Or whips thy noble spirit tame? (repeat)
Too long the world has wept, bewailing
That falsehood's dagger tyrants wield,
But freedom is our sword and shield,
And all their arts are unavailing.
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...

Additional verses

These verses were omitted from the national anthem .

La Marseillaise

French lyrics English translation
Dieu de clémence et de justice God of mercy and justice
Vois nos tyrans, juge nos coeurs See our tyrants, judge our hearts
Que ta bonté nous soit propice Thy goodness be with us
Défends-nous de ces oppresseurs (bis) Defend us from these oppressors (repeat)
Tu règnes au ciel et sur terre You reign in heaven and on earth
Et devant Toi, tout doit fléchir And before You all must bend
De ton bras, viens nous soutenir In your arms, come support us
Toi, grand Dieu, maître du tonnerre. You Great God, Lord of the thunder.
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Peuple français, connais ta gloire ; French people know thy glory
Couronné par l’Égalité, Crowned by Equality,
Quel triomphe, quelle victoire, What a triumph, what a victory,
D’avoir conquis la Liberté ! (bis) To have won Freedom! (repeat)
Le Dieu qui lance le tonnerre The God who throws thunder
Et qui commande aux éléments, And who commands the elements,
Pour exterminer les tyrans, To exterminate the tyrants
Se sert de ton bras sur la terre. Uses your arm on the ground.
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Nous avons de la tyrannie Of tyranny, we have
Repoussé les derniers efforts; Rebuffed the final efforts;
De nos climats, elle est bannie ; In our climate, it is banished;
Chez les Français les rois sont morts. (bis) In France the kings are dead. (repeat)
Vive à jamais la République ! Forever live the Republic!
Anathème à la royauté ! Anathema to royalty!
Que ce refrain, partout porté, That this refrain worn everywhere,
Brave des rois la politique. Defies the politics of kings.
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
La France que l’Europe admire France that Europe admires
A reconquis la Liberté Has regained Liberty
Et chaque citoyen respire And every citizen breathes
Sous les lois de l’Égalité ; (bis) Under the laws of Equality, (repeat)
Un jour son image chérie One day its beloved image
S’étendra sur tout l’univers. Will extend throughout the universe.
Peuples, vous briserez vos fers People, you will break your chains
Et vous aurez une Patrie ! And you will have a Fatherland!
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Foulant aux pieds les droits de l’Homme, Trampling on the rights of man,
Les soldatesques légions soldierly legions
Des premiers habitants de Rome The first inhabitants of Rome
Asservirent les nations. (bis) enslave nations. (repeat)
Un projet plus grand et plus sage A larger project and wiser
Nous engage dans les combats We engage in battle
Et le Français n’arme son bras And the Frenchman does not arm himself
Que pour détruire l’esclavage. But to destroy slavery.
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
Oui ! Déjà d’insolents despotes Yes! Already insolent despots
Et la bande des émigrés And the band of emigrants
Faisant la guerre aux Sans-Culottes Waging war on the unclothed (lit. without-breeches)
Par nos armes sont altérés; (bis) By our weapons are withered; (repeat)
Vainement leur espoir se fonde Vainly their hope is based
Sur le fanatisme irrité, On piqued fanaticism
Le signe de la Liberté The sign of Liberty
Fera bientôt le tour du monde. Will soon spread around the world.
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
À vous ! Que la gloire environne, To you! Let glory surround
Citoyens, illustres guerriers, Citizens, illustrious warriors,
Craignez, dans les champs de Bellone, Fear in the fields of Bellona,
Craignez de flétrir vos lauriers ! (bis) Fear the sullying of your laurels! (repeat)
Aux noirs soupçons inaccessibles As for dark unfounded suspicions
Envers vos chefs, vos généraux, Towards your leaders, your generals,
Ne quittez jamais vos drapeaux, Never leave your flags,
Et vous resterez invincibles. And you will remain invincible.
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...
(Couplet des enfants) (Children's Verse)
Enfants, que l’Honneur, la Patrie Children, let Honour and Fatherland
Fassent l’objet de tous nos vœux ! be the object of all our wishes!
Ayons toujours l’âme nourrie Let us always have souls nourished
Des feux qu’ils inspirent tous deux. (bis) With fires that might inspire both. (repeat)
Soyons unis ! Tout est possible ; Let us be united! Anything is possible;
Nos vils ennemis tomberont, Our vile enemies will fall,
Alors les Français cesseront Then the French will cease
De chanter ce refrain terrible : To sing this fierce refrain:
Aux armes, citoyens... To arms, citizens...

Historical use in Russia

La Marseillaise performed on a synthesizer.

Problems playing this file?

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.[13]

In popular culture

  • Robert A Heinlein named La Marseillaise in a series of motivational songs routinely sung by the recruits at boot camp in "Starship Troopers".
  • Django Reinhardt used the theme in "Échos de France."
  • The Beatles used the song as an introduction to "All You Need Is Love."
  • Neil Hannon used the primary melody for The Divine Comedy's 1996 single "Frog Princess."
  • Jimi Hendrix, during a 1967 Paris concert, played a psychedelic version of the anthem.
  • Frank Sinatra, as part of "French Foreign Legion."
  • In 1978, Serge Gainsbourg recorded a reggae version, "Aux armes et cætera," with Robbie Shakespeare, Sly Dunbar and Rita Marley in the choir in Jamaica.
  • "La Marseillaise" is quoted in Rossini's 1813 opera, L'italiana in Algeri during the choral introduction to Isabella's 2nd act aria "Pensa alla patria."
  • The song's theme was used by Jacques Offenbach in his Opera "Orpheus in the Underworld" to illustrate a revolution amongst the Olympic gods and goddesses with the lines "Aux armes Dieux et Demi-Dieux."
  • The song occurs in the Monty Python's Broadway musical Spamalot when confronted by French knights in the song "Run Away!"
  • In the RKO film Joan of Paris (1942), "La Marseillaise" is sung by a classroom full of young schoolchildren as the Gestapo hunts their teacher, a French Resistance operative.
  • "La Marseillaise" was famously used in Casablanca at the behest of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) to drown out a group of German soldiers singing "Die Wacht am Rhein." It was also played during the closing card of the movie.
  • "La Marseillaise" was used in the film Escape to Victory, also known as Victory.
  • In the biopic La Vie en Rose, chronicling the life of Edith Piaf, ten-year-old Edith is urged by her acrobat father to "do something" in the middle of a lackluster show, and she amazes the audience with an emotional rendition of "La Marseillaise."
  • The British comedy series 'Allo 'Allo! spoofed Casablanca by having the patriotic French characters start singing "La Marseillaise," only to switch to Deutschlandlied when Nazi officers enter their cafe.
  • The Brisbane Lions Football Club who play in the(AFL) team theme song is "The Pride of Brisbane Town" and it is sung to the music of "La Marseillaise." This song was adapted from the Fitzroy Lions song, also sung to the same music, used since the 1950s.
  • At the end of Guy de Maupassant's novella Boule de Suif, which is set against the backdrop of the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the character Cornudet whistles and sings "La Marsellaise" for hours during a long carriage ride in order to torment his fellow passengers.
  • The song is also featured in Isaac Asimov's short science fiction story Battle-hymn, about how the national anthem is used as a subliminal advertising ploy.
  • The carillon of the town hall in the Bavarian town of Cham plays "La Marseillaise" every day at 12.05 pm to commemorate the French Marshal Nicolas Luckner, who was born there.[14]
  • Short after the composition of the original song, the Greek revolutionary Rigas Feraios, composed the Greek version of La Marseillaise (Sons of Greeks, Arise!), that became the hymn of war against Ottoman rule and kind of Greek national anthem during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830).[15][16]
  • The 19th-century Labour movement used a "Worker Marseillaise" (written 1864 by Jakob Audorf) that was later replaced by The Internationale. It was famously sung on the way to the gallows by those sentenced to death after the Haymarket Riot.
  • On the Belgian national holiday former Prime Minister Yves Leterme, a native speaker of Dutch, when asked by a Walloon journalist if he knew his national anthem in French, without giving it a moment of thought. fluently sang the first line of La Marseillaise instead of the "Brabançonne." His televised confounding was seen as funny in Flanders, but negative reactions from Walloon media and politicians required Leterme to make a public apology.[17]
  • In the episode 'France' of the cartoon Histeria!,which is about the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte,snippets of La Marseillaise(instrumental) can be heard at different parts of the episode.This is because the French national anthemn was composed during the Révolution Française.


  1. "La Marseillaise". National Assembly of France. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Weber, Eugen (1 June 1976). Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914. Stanford University Press. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-8047-1013-8. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  3. Stevens, Benjamin F. (January 1896). "Story of La Marseillaise". Boston, Massachusetts: Oliver Ditson Company. p. 2. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  4. Mould, Michael (2011). The Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French. New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-136-82573-6. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  5. Modern History Sourcebook: La Marseillaise, 1792.
  6. Described and played on BBC Radio 3's CD Review program (14 January 2012)
  8. Wikisource-logo.svg "Marseillaise". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.  See also Geschichte eines deutschen Liedes at German Wikisource.
  9. Wikisource-logo.svg "Marseillaise". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  10. La Marseillaise, l’Elysée.
  11. The seventh verse was not part of the original text; it was added in 1792 by an unknown author.
  12. Library of Congress
  13. Соболева, Н.А. 2005. Из истории отечественных государственных гимнов. Журнал "Отечественная история", 1. P.10-12
  15. Günther, Dionysios Solomos. Übers. und kommentiert von Hans-Christian (2000). Werke. Stuttgart: Steiner. pp. 222. ISBN 978-3-515-07249-6. 
  16. Balkan studies: biannual publication of the Institute for Balkan Studies. 1999. pp. 101. 
  17. "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

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