Monday, June 19, 2006

National Anthem

Following the Olympics, the world and his mate appeared to be labouring under the misapprehension that Land of Hope and Glory was the national anthem of England.



Now that we are well into the World Cup Group Stage, the nation has had to witness the England team mouthing along to the dirge that is ‘God Save the Queen’, twice. Now don’t get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with ‘God Save the Queen’ apart from the fact that it is the British anthem; the musical equivalent of the Union Flag, not the cross of St George. When the Scots and Welsh sing their anthems with gusto and then boo ‘God Save the Queen’, it really is time for England to settle the issue and pick an anthem for England. I am pleased to direct you to the Anthem 4 England website, for a lot of info and interactivity on the subject.

However, I was musing on this yesterday as France prepared to play South Korea, and by heck that Marseillaise is bloody good, isn’t it? Not least because it is a Chant de Guerre, a battle song, a marching song, a song to carry you to war.


When in April 1792 the French Revolution declared war on the two powerful German monarchies, Habsburgs and the Hohenzollerns, Frédéric de Dietrich, the mayor of Strasbourg, was concerned. In a conversation with Joseph Rouget de Lisle (a captain and engineer in the French army), de Dietrich expressed his desire motivate soldiers and the citizens to defend the city and the country. De Deitrich implored the captain to write a song to rouse the people.

La Marseillaise was composed in one night, 24 April, 1792. It was played at a patriotic banquet at Marseilles, and printed copies were given to the revolutionary forces then marching on Paris. They entered Paris singing this song, and to it they marched to the Tuileries on August 10th.

Ironically, Rouget de Lisle was himself a royalist and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new constitution. He was imprisoned and barely escaped the guillotine.. Originally entitled Chant de guerre de l'armeé du Rhin (War Song of the Army of the Rhine), the anthem became called La Marseillaise because of its popularity with volunteer army units from Marseilles.

The Convention accepted it as the French national anthem in a decree passed July 14, 1795. La Marseillaise was banned by Napoleon during the Empire, and by Louis XVIII on the Second Restoration (1815), because of its revolutionary associations. Authorised after the July Revolution of 1830, it was again banned by Napoleon III and not reinstated until 1879.

Just listen.

It famously became the anthem of anarchists and revolutionaries everywhere, but I defy anyone to demonstrate a more powerful usage of the song than the "duel of the songs" in the film ‘Casablanca’ when Victor Laszlo (the Resistance leader played by Paul Henreid) exhorts the band to play La Marseillaise competing against the Germans singing " Die Wacht am Rhein".

This is what Lazlo says to the band.

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In Casablanca, La Marseillaise represents a free France, and, by extension, the Allied side in World War II. The song plays many times throughout Casablanca, most significantly when almost all the patrons at Rick's join in a stirring rendition intended to overwhelm the sound of the Nazi anthem that a few German soldiers are singing.

In this dramatic scene, World War II shifts from geopolitical contest to ideological and cultural battle. The war is not only between the Allies and the Axis, but also between the ideals of the French Revolution, liberté, egalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, brotherhood), and the rights of man, and the darker obsessions of the Nazis, including evil, tyranny, and death. In this scene, the patrons of Rick's show themselves to be fiercely pro-Allies. Even the cynically promiscuous Yvonne, who just that evening has shown up with a new German lover, sings with passion and conviction.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé.
Contre nous, de la tyrannie,
L'étandard sanglant est levé,
l'étandard sanglant est levé,
Entendez-vous, dans la compagnes.
Mugir ces farouches soldats
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger vos fils,
vos compagnes.


Let us go, children of the fatherland
Our day of Glory has arrived.
Against us stands tyranny,
The bloody flag is raised,
The bloody flag is raised.
Do you hear in the countryside
The roar of these savage soldiers
They come right into our arms
To cut the throats of your sons,
your country.

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


To arms, citizens!
Form up your battalions
Let us march, Let us march!
That their impure blood
Should water our fields
All that talk of watering the fields with impure blood is not exactly PC but blimey, it's dead good, innit? Come on England! Altogether now, "Vindaloo, Vindaloo, Vindaloo nah na na nah"....

9 Comments:

Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Can I just open the batting on the comments by saying, that Mireille Mattieu version of La Marseillaise is all the scarier for the woman's voice. No wonder they called her MADAME LA GUILLOTINE.

To paraphrase the Iron Duke, she scares the hell out of me!

Mon Jun 19, 07:04:00 PM GMT+1  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can we (the English) manage to better that March?

Mon Jun 19, 08:44:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

Well, I want to read this posing at length and take in all that has been written...its the least I can do when so much time and effort has been given.

The French National Anthem I looked up the English lyrics maybe 5 years ago and was amazed at what was being sung when all you normally hear is the language it was intended.

As for Mireille Mattieu, I remember her from years ago...she was one of the few French artists that seemed to manage a bit of a career on British televison as I was growing up and I seem to remember(and some tv buff will correct or confirm this perhaps...)she appeared a lot of that time with Des O'Connor and she was very young. I'm suddenly feeling quite old...

For some reason Mum has always remembered La Marseillaise and been able to sing it when it comes on tv or wherever.

Tue Jun 20, 12:20:00 AM GMT+1  
Blogger Lucy said...

"Mireille Mattieu version of La Marseillaise is all the scarier for the woman's voice"
Hmm, it was boarding school wasn't it Gavin?

No firm ideas on what should be the English anthem Im afraid, though. I quite like I Vow to Thee and Land of Hope..., the words would need a change.

Tue Jun 20, 02:30:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

She just sounds like she could (nay WOULD) castrate a collaborator, Lucy. That's the trouble really, I like I Vow to Thee, Land of Hope, Jerusalem and whatnot, but they just haven't got the hackle rising, pace of the Chant de Guerre, have they?

Mind you I thought ‘Advance Australia Fair' was a terrible choice in the face of Waltzing Matilda, apparently they didn't want law breaking in the national anthem. Why not? French furrows happily run with xenophobically impure blood but no, the Auzzies can't pop the odd jumbuck in their tucker bags anymore, so what do I know?

Tue Jun 20, 03:45:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Well done Gavin, good post! Sorry I've been busy fiddling (not with a violin) and most of my time was taken up trying to sort it...oh and work ...and football :-)

The poll is also on the CEP news blog.

I voted Land of Hope and Glory but on that site Jerusalem was way out in front!

Wed Jun 21, 04:10:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Waltzing Matilda is what they sang on Saturday (Aus v Eng RFU) which is crap, as crap as swing low sweet chariot....how to help grind your side down by singing a boring dirge.

Wed Jun 21, 04:12:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Paul said...

Excellent post Gavin.

Personally I'd choose 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' by The Smiths as I think it sums up the English psyche perfectly.

I love France and the French, they have a saying 'Everything for France first,' and I think La Marseillaise sums that attitude up prefectly.

Thu Jun 22, 11:19:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Perfect Paul. But if we were to say similar we'd be pilloried in the court of the politically correct.

I love France. It's ours. We should claim it back...

Fri Jun 23, 08:32:00 PM GMT+1  

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