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Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

14 juillet 2003

Storm the Bastille...it's July 14!
Aux armes, citoyens!

The taking of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789 was the spark that ignited the French Revolution, leading to the birth of democracy in France. This holiday is celebrated all across France and its territories...and by Francophiles around the world. Much to their dismay, some tourists coming to Paris to see the Bastille are disappointed to find no prison, rather just a traffic circle with a monument in the middle. The place was burned to the ground as part of the revolutionary activities.
     Traditional Parisian Bastille Day events include an impressive military parade down the Champs Elysées, with fireworks, street dances, and of course good eating. From Marseille to la Manche, all across France, the holiday is celebrated in much the same way, including the annual nationwide traffic jam as everyone takes off for vacation.
     La Marseillaise, one of the world’s most rousing tunes, is inextricably linked to France’s Bastille Day heritage. At sporting events, military parades, at all ceremonial events (and in great movies -- remember Casablanca?), one can’t help jumping to one’s feet to join in when those opening notes ring out. Do you know the words to the song? Do you know how they translate? We thought you might want a little background and to see what's really being sung.
     This gorily glorious French national anthem was written in April 1792 by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle. The French army at
Strasbourg had just gotten the news that war had been declared against the Prussians, so a song was needed to stir the troops; the original title was “Battle Song for the Army of the Rhine.” Rouget de Lisle stepped in.

PlacedelaBastille.jpg (41081 bytes)

The Bastille is only a monument today,
but Bastille Day celebrations live on!

BastilleParade.jpg (31770 bytes)
Photos du Ministère des Affaires étrangères - Service photographique



"March of the Marseillais"

     Stories vary on how the battle song evolved to la Marseillaise and the French Revolution, but according to one, a student from Marseille brought the song back home with him, where it was sung at a banquet with much gusto. A few weeks later it came back to Paris with the volunteer revolutionaries from Marseilles bellowing its refrain as they stormed the Tuileries. It was declared the French national anthem on July 14, 1792.
     As with many populist songs, several versions floated around over the decades. In 1830, during another of the French revolutions, Hector Berlioz wrote an opera of that name, including a stirring arrangement of the anthem as a tribute to Rouget de Lisle, who had been disgraced as a royalist. Finally in 1887, a group of musicians and politicians got together and were able to agree on today’s official version.
     If you’d like to see the entire seven verses and hear a rousing version of this inspiring tune, visit the French diplomatic website. A translation of the first few verses are shown below in two versions, one liberal, the other direct.


En  français

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
Egorger vos fils et vos compagnes !

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

 

                         La Marseillaise

English version

Ye sons of freedom wake to glory
Hark! Hark! What myriads bid you rise!
Your children, wives and grandsons hoary
Behold their tears and hear their cries.
Behold their tears and hear their cries.
Shall hateful tyrants mischief breeding
With hireling hosts a ruffian band
Of fright and desolate the land
When peace and liberty are bleeding.

To arms, to arms, ye brave!
Th’avenging sword unsheath!
March on, march on
All hearts resolved 
On liberty or death.

 



 Direct translation to English

Forward, children of the Fatherland!
The day of glory has arrived
Tyranny’s bloody standard has been raised against us.
Tyranny’s bloody standard has been raised against us
Do you hear those ferocious soldiers bellowing in the countryside?
They’re coming right intoy our embrace
To slaughter your sons and daughters.

To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions
Come on, let’s march!
To water our furrows 
With tainted blood.


Yes, Americans are different, too...
Oui, les américains sont aussi particuliers...

Remember last month’s discussion about Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but not the French? Well, we've discovered a few items recently released in France that attempt to tackle the subject from a French perspective. This past spring, Pascal Baudry, a Frenchman from Berkeley CA, published Français & Américains:  L'Autre Rive. In this book, Baudry, who has lived in the US since 1985, interprets Americans, their culture and how they respond to and differ from the French, reportedly from a French perspective. This was written for a French audience in French, the online reviews are enthusiastic, so we’re waiting for our copy to arrive to get a closer look.
     On a different note but equally anticipated for our library is the June 2003 re-issued version of “112 Gripes About the French” which has been translated and retitled Nos Amis les Francais. The original booklet was put out by the U.S. Department of the Army in 1945 as a Q&A explanation of quirky French ways for American GIs. This French version’s publicity material calls it a “véritable et véridique joyau” -- a true and authentic gem. The content, according to a recent piece in the International Herald Tribune, attempts to answer such questions as “Why are the French so mercenary? Why do they eat frogs? Why do they drink so much?” etc. Hmmm…can’t wait to read the rest of the questions, never mind the answers.
    The gap between the French and Americans will always be a subject of much discussion, and now we can examine its depth and breadth from both sides of the Atlantic ocean that divides. Encore, vivent les différences!


cover

Counterprogramming?


 


Happy Bastille Day!

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