Tuesday, April 23, 2013

La Marseillaise: Viva la France!

Today marks the composing of the famous                       La Marseillaise, the battle-hymn of the French republic. It was composed in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, an engineer in the army, eventually attaining the rank of captain. The song, composed at Strasbourg, where he was stationed, has immortalized him. He wrote the words after a patriotic dinner in a fit of excitement (see painting at right). He was a royalist, by the way, and thrown into prison, in 1793, narrowly escaping the guillotine! He was eventually freed during a reaction to political events, the Thermidorian Reaction, as it is known.

La Marseillaise anthem  is written in a march style, and very emotive. One of my favorite hearings of it comes in the classic film, Casablanca, where it is sung in "Rick's famous, or infamous, cafe. Sung in reaction to the German officers in the bar, it really overwhelms. Brings a tear. I just love it. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the film is in glorious black and white, with all its dramatic lighting, and Rick and Ilsa there, too. Give it a listen:


La Marseillaise is also commemorated on the Arch du Triumph in Paris. See above, the glorious, heroic figures displayed. The chorus below, gives you a taste! Wonderful stuff!

To arms, to arms, ye brave!
The avenging sword unsheath,
March on, march on!
All hearts resolv'd
On victory or death!

 Another great patriotic artistic expression is by French painter Eugene Delacoix's "Liberty Leading the People". Painted a little later in 1830, it depicts Liberty as a goddess/robust woman of the people. The cap on her head, the Phrygian cap, came to symbolized liberty during the French Revolution, 1789-94. It hangs in the Lourve, but many people know it from the cover of Coldplay's album, Viva La Vida.

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