La Marseillaise: what are the lyrics to the French national anthem and when were they written? (2024)

Read on for an introduction and lyrics to the famous French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

What is the French national anthem?

Today the French national anthem is known as La Marseillaise, but it began life as 'Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin' ('War Song for the Army of the Rhine'). The Army of the Rhine were one of three revolutionary armies at the time in France. They were deployed to the French/German borders along the Rhine River. The song was renamed 'La Marseillaise' after volunteers from Marseille sung it when marching on to the capital on 30 July 1792.

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Who composed La Marseillaise?

La Marseillaise was written in April 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle. He wrote it in Strasbourg after hearing France had declared war against Austria and it was officially recognised as the French national anthem three years later, in 1795. However, less than 10 years after that – during the rules of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis XVIII and Charles X (1804-1830) – it was banned.

Perhaps the leaders feared it might reignite revolutionary passions and lead to their downfall… which happened anyway. Although reinstated in 1830 it was banned again during Napoleon III’s reign, but it’s had quite a peaceful existence since then.

La Marseillaise is synonymous with the French Revolution and is sung with gusto every Bastille Day in July, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille and the fall of the monarchy.

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More national anthem lyrics

If you're reading this around the time of the UEFA Euro 2024 football tournament, you can head elsewhere on our site to find the national anthems of Poland's Group D rivals: we have the lyrics and history for the Polish national anthem, for the Dutch national anthem 'Wilhelmus', and for the national anthem of Austria. In fact, we've got the national anthem lyrics for plenty of countries around the globe, so come and have a browse.

And did you know…?

The French composer Hector Berlioz arranged La Marseillaise for orchestra, chorus and soprano in around 1830, while a number of other composers have included the melody in their music. These include the German Robert Schumann, who features it in his Hermann und Dorothea Overture, and the Russian Tchaikovsky, who parodies it in his 1812 Overture, a work celebrating Napoleon’s failed invasion of his country. Plus, of course, it famously introduces ‘All you need is love’ by the Beatles.

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French national anthem La Marseillaise lyrics in English

Arise, children of the Fatherland, The day of glory has arrived! Against us, tyranny's Bloody standard is raised, (repeat) Do you hear, in the countryside, The roar of those ferocious soldiers? They're coming right into our arms To cut the throats of our sons, our women!

To arms, citizens,Form your battalions,Let's march, let's march!Let an impure bloodWater our furrows!

What does this horde of slaves,Of traitors and conspiring kings want?For whom have these vile chains,These irons, been long prepared? (repeat)Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrageWhat furious action it must arouse!It is to us they dare planA return to the old slavery!

To arms, citizens...

What! Foreign cohortsWould make the law in our homes!What! These mercenary phalanxesWould strike down our proud warriors! (repeat)Great God! By chained handsOur brows would yield under the yoke!Vile despots would themselves becomeThe masters of our destinies!

To arms, citizens...

Tremble, tyrants and you traitorsThe shame of all parties,Tremble! Your parricidal schemesWill finally receive their prize! (repeat)Everyone is a soldier to combat you,If they fall, our young heroes,Will be produced anew from the ground,Ready to fight against you!

To arms, citizens...

Lyrics, continued

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,Bear or hold back your blows!Spare those sorry victims,For regretfully arming against us. (repeat)But these bloodthirsty despots,These accomplices of Bouillé,All these tigers who mercilesslyTear apart their mother's breast!

To arms, citizens...

Sacred love of the Fatherland,Lead, support our avenging armsLiberty, cherished Liberty,Fight with thy defenders! (repeat)Under our flags may victoryHurry to thy manly accents,So that thy expiring enemiesSee thy triumph and our glory!

To arms, citizens...

(Children's Verse)We shall enter the (military) careerWhen our elders are no longer there,There we shall find their dustAnd the trace of their virtues (repeat)Much less keen to survive themThan to share their coffins,We shall have the sublime prideTo avenge or follow them.

To arms, citizens...

What are the French lyrics to La Marseillaise?

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! Contre nous de la tyrannie L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis) Entendez-vous dans les campagnes Mugir ces féroces soldats ? Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

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

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)Français, pour nous, ah! quel outrageQuels transports il doit exciter !C'est nous qu'on ose méditerDe rendre à l'antique esclavage !

Aux armes, citoyens...

Quoi ! des cohortes étrangèresFeraient la loi dans nos foyers !Quoi ! Ces phalanges mercenairesTerrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)Grand Dieu! Par des mains enchaînéesNos fronts sous le joug se ploieraientDe vils despotes deviendraientLes maîtres de nos destinées !

Aux armes, citoyens..

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfidesL'opprobre de tous les partis,Tremblez ! vos projets parricidesVont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis)Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,La terre en produit de nouveaux,Contre vous tout prêts à se battre !

Aux armes, citoyens...

Français, en guerriers magnanimes,Portez ou retenez vos coups !Épargnez ces tristes victimes,À regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,Mais ces complices de Bouillé,Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,Déchirent le sein de leur mère !

Aux armes, citoyens...

Amour sacré de la Patrie,Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeursLiberté, Liberté chérie,Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)Sous nos drapeaux que la victoireAccoure à tes mâles accents,Que tes ennemis expirantsVoient ton triomphe et notre gloire !

Aux armes, citoyens...

(Couplet des enfants)Nous entrerons dans la carrièreQuand nos aînés n'y seront plus,Nous y trouverons leur poussièreEt la trace de leurs vertus (bis)Bien moins jaloux de leur survivreQue de partager leur cercueil,Nous aurons le sublime orgueilDe les venger ou de les suivre.

Aux armes, citoyens...

La Marseillaise: what are the lyrics to the French national anthem and when were they written? (2024)
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