Happy Bastille Day!

Aux armes, citoyens! Citizens take up arms!
Formez vos bataillons! Form your battalions!
Marchons, marchons! March, march!
Qu’un sang impur… Let the impure blood…
Abreuve nos sillons! Spill into our land!

On July 14th 1848, the famous tragedy actress Rachel (see picture) sang La Marseillaise at the Comédie Française theatre, it was serious business.

But in 1979, the bloody French anthem was covered by controversial Serge Gainsbourg and all of a sudden we sang to a different rhythm. Not only did Serge compose a reggae arrangement to accompany the well known lyrics, but he drastically shortened the chorus too and gave us the one liner ‘Aux armes etc….’. Pretty shocking to some, but much funkier. Something to dance to!

Gainsbourg’s abridged lyrics with literal translation
Allons ! Enfants de la Patrie! Come on! Children of the homeland
Le jour de gloire est arrivé! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us, of tyranny,
L’étendard sanglant est levé! The bloody banner is raised!
or: The bloody banner of tyranny is raised against us!

Aux armes! etc….Take arms! etc….

Entendez-vous dans les campagnes, Can you hear in the countryside,
Mugir ces féroces soldats? Shout these ferocious soldiers?
or: Can you hear these ferocious soldiers shouting in the countryside?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras, They come right into your arms,
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes! To cut your sons’ and wives’ throats!

Aux armes! etc….Take arms! etc….

Amour sacré de la Patrie, Sacred love of the country,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs! Drive and support our avenging arms!
Liberté ! Liberté chérie, Freedom! beloved freedom,
Combats avec tes défenseurs! Fight with your defendors!

Aux armes! etc….Take arms! etc….

Nous entrerons dans la carrière, We will enter the career (or pit),
Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus; When our elders are no longer there;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière, We will find their dust,
Et la trace de leurs vertus. And the trace of their vertus.
Aux armes! etc….Take arms! etc….

For the full official lyrics, as probably sang by Rachel in 1848, have a look at the French government’s website. Bon 14 juillet!