The national anthem : The Marseillaise
La Marseillaise started life as a revolutionary battle song and a hymn to freedom. It gradually gained acceptance as a national anthem. Nowadays it is performed at most official events.

Following the French declaration of war on Austria in 1792, Rouget de Lisle, a French officer stationed in Strasbourg, composed the "Battle Song of the Army of the Rhine" during the night of April 25-26, in the home of citizen Dietrich, the Mayor of the city.

The song was taken up by the fédérés (volunteers) from Marseilles who took part in the Tuileries insurrection on August 10, 1792. It proved so successful it was declared a national song on July 14, 1795.

Banned under the Empire and the Restoration, La Marseillaise was reinstated by the July Revolution of 1830, and Hector Berlioz orchestrated the music, dedicating his composition to Rouget de Lisle.

The Third Republic (1879) established it as the French national anthem, and in 1887 an "official version" was adopted by the Ministry of War following the recommendation of a specially-appointed commission.

Also under the Third Republic, the ashes of Rouget de Lisle were transferred to Les Invalides (on July 14, 1915).

In September 1944, a circular issued by the Ministry of Education called for La Marseillaise to be sung in schools in order "to celebrate our liberation and our martyrs."

Its status as the national anthem was reaffirmed in the 1946 and 1958 Constitutions (article 2).

The composer

Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, captain of engineers in the French army, was born at Lons-le-Saunier in 1760. His military career was fairly brief. As a moderate revolutionary, he was saved from the Terror (1793) by the success of his song. He also wrote a handful of romances and operas, then lived in obscurity under the Empire and the Restoration until his death, at Choisy-le-Roi, in 1836.

The music

The "Hymne des Marseillais" spread throughout Alsace, in handwritten or printed form, in a matter of weeks, before being taken up by several Paris printers. The early editions were published anonymously, casting doubt for a while on the authorship of Rouget de Lisle, who was otherwise a rather poor composer.

There is no authoritative version of La Marseillaise, it having been set to music in a variety of forms, with or without words, right from the start. In 1879, La Marseillaise was declared to be the official anthem with no indication as to the version to be used, causing considerable musical confusion whenever the work was performed by more than one band brought together for the occasion! The 1887 commission, made up of professional musicians, settled on an official version after having reworked both the tune and the harmony.

In 1974, the newly-elected President Giscard d’Estaing wanted the performance of the work to reflect its origins more closely and ordered it to be played at a slower tempo. The version played at official ceremonies today, however, is adapted from the 1887 version.

La Marseillaise has also been adapted by jazz and popular musicians.

source  and print version :
Listen to the Marseillaise
instrumental Version Mireille Mathieu and choir
1er couplet 1st couplet
 Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé,
L'étendard sanglant est levé,
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !
Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us stands the tyranny,
The blood-stained standard now is raised,
The blood-stained standard now is raised
Do you hear across the countryside
these savage soldiers roaring
They come right into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons, your wives.
 Refrain Refrain
 Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !
To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions
Let's march! Let's march!
Shall impure blood
drench our fields!
Beneath tthe other couplets of the anthem, without the attempt of a translation. There are already many of them! Anyhow, it can't be translated! It's French! You must feel it! You must read, hear or sing it in French and understand time and circumstances under which it has been composed and sung for the first time!
Couplet 2 Couplet 3
Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !
Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
 Refrain  Refrain

Couplet 4
Couplet 5
Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !
Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Épargnez ces tristes victimes,
À regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !
 Refrain  Refrain

Couplet 6
Couplet 7 (dit couplet des enfants)
Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents,
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !
Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus,
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre
 Refrain  Refrain
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