The other day it was the anniversary of the liberation of Lisieux by the allied forces. In commemoration, a ceremony is held each year in the park in the center of town. This year, I was at my friend Marielle’s house when she said to me, “I have to go sing the Marseillaise in town, do you and Julia want to go with me?”
I didn’t know the words to the song (I vaguely knew them) but my daughter had sung for the WWII and WWI ceremonies in our town and wasn’t shy, so we said yes. (And I figured I’d just move my lips, lol)
We got to the park and I realized this was an official ceremony, and I was given a paper with the words to the song, and everyone made a nice fuss about how great it was that an American was there, and I had to shake everyone’s hand and meet the mayor.
Marielle was a member of the chorus, and so we stood in the front facing the guests of honor and the crowd. Everybody who was anybody was there that day – including five ‘ancient combatants’ which is what the French call the soldiers. The men were from England and Scotland and the mayor gave a speech in English that left them mostly perplexed – (I could see their faces as we were behind the mayor in nice rows, being the chorus.)
Then the mayor finished massacring the English speech and switched to French, and then he nodded to us to sing.
We all took a deep breath, and the choral leader sang the first note – and it was WAY up in the stratosphere – she was a soprano – and we all sounded like a chorus of mice. (Luckily I’m a soprano so even if I didn’t know the words I could match her note for note, lol.)
Afterward we were invited to the town hall for traditional speeches, champagne, and little cakes. Yum.
Anyhow, it has often occurred to me that any country thinking about invading another country should study the French national anthem. Take a good look at the words and you will see why.
“La Marseillaise” was written and composed by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, captain in the Engineering corps garrisoned in Strasbourg during the night of 24 to 25 April 1792.
The lyrics, speaking of bloody battles and a call for citizens to take up arms, have been debated endlessly whether to alter the words to suit the more peaceful times that France currently enjoys, but the original words, capturing the spirit of the French revolution, remain. This is probably due to the fact that “La Marseillaise” is now inexorably linked to France in the mind of the world.
1. 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 nos bras
Egorger nos fils et nos compagnes !
Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! marchons !
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !
1. Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody flag is raised
The bloody flag is raised,
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these ferocious soldiers
They are coming right into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts
To arms citizens
Form you battalions
Let impure blood
Water our furrows!
Yes, when you see the words you realize that any man will defend his country against invaders, even, as in this case, when they are in a civil war. (So imagine how they feel when another country invades…)
Something to ponder upon.