La Marseillaise - your comments

As I said in my about this site section, I like people writing to me with their comments. Lucky for me then that quite a few of you have. Here are some of the more interesting, the more bizarre and, for I'm as vain as the next man, the more flattering.

For added humour value the messages are left as-is, which means I take no responsibility for their content.

I could dedicate an entire site to my reactions to these messages, but I'll leave you with one: what I actually said was that AOL's original integrated (and not IE4) browser was "frankly rather pathetic." By the way, just to clarify, I think IE sucks as well...

Assuming I've got round to putting them up (a non-trivial assumption), you can find some French "fan letters" here. Thanks to Karen Wilson for that fantastic phrase. Hope she doesn't mind if I plunder it!

More recent letters are at the end.

From SalThomp

Subject: Childern's songs
Date: Sat, 11 Apr 1998 11:57:52 EDT
From: SalThomp <>

Hi i am sallie an education resource teacher in KS. i am looking for a french folk song to teach elementary students when they visit our international marketplace program. each school visit for one day and we present hands-on activities about cultures from around the world.
now that ive said all that, i need some new music for our music and dan station. the song &/or dance needs to simple(something that can be taught in 20 min.)
if you could lead me forward in my search, i would appreciate it.

From Tony Ryan

Subject: You're rubbish at translating French
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998 13:40:26 +0000
From: A J Ryan <>

is really the french national anthem???!!!!
its to looooooonnnnnnggggggggg!!!!!

From Geri & Ray

Subject: La Marseillaise
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 19:28:17 EDT
From: Geriragan <>

Thank you for the words and the music. We are going to France in July and we are taking a conversational Frence class at the local community college. Now if you would just sing the French words to the music we would understand and appreciate it even more, s'il vous plait.

Merci , Geri & Ray

From Jan Lattunen

Subject: Marseillaise
Date: Fri, 03 Jul 1998 13:53:41 +0300
From: Jan Lattunen <>

Il faut que je t'ecris en englais, parceque je suis tres mauvais en ecrit, et je parle comme un vache espanol.

You have a great marseillaise page there. It's a shame, that you didn't have a longer version in mp3. The au was quite short, I'm afraid. If you wanna a mp3 version of the wav, I can enc it and put for you to download...

But anycase, I just wondered if you would know a place where I could get a (mp3) version of "Il est vreiment phenomenal". I'd love to get my hands on that, but I'm unable to find it in Finland in the music shops, or in the web as mp3. damn :/

Well, cheers and beers. Tonight France will win Italy.

ps. CCS in kinda cool, but it doesn't work well in Solaris NS :(

Jan Lattunen, & ~/atropos

From Jan Lattunen

Subject: Re: Marseillaise
Date: Mon, 06 Jul 1998 13:12:14 +0300
From: Jan Lattunen <>

Iain Patterson wrote:
> That would be great. I personally love MP3 and I did try to convert the .mov file that's also on the page into a .wav so I could enc it.
Yea, well I had the l3enc, but the son of a bitch would code 8 bit wav:s to mp3:s. I'll send the wav to a friend and he'll have to do it with a window machine.
> Finnish shop order the record via a French shop? You'd have to pay
I guess that that is one way, I'll just have to wait when I'll go to France next time, and buy it from there.
> Blanc, Desailly and Thuram. If France DO win, and I hope they don't, I think it will be on penalties.
Hmmm. that went quite right...
> But we English don't like to talk about penalties #:~(
Well, we don't even have a team in the games here in Finland. I guess that we concentrate more in Ice Hockey.
> Explain how it doesn't work, and I'll try to fix it.
It's the Netscape on Solaris. It doesn't support quite a few features of ccs. Font size, style. You'd have to take Netscape's source code, and fix it there.

I'll let you know when I get the mp3 done...

Jan Lattunen,
"My Grandfather was a lesbian, so I guess that makes me quarter an lesbian" -Cartman, SP.


Subject: Marseillaise
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998 12:45:43 EDT

About the sheet music, you need to scan it as though it was a black and white picture not a colour one, otherwise you need to use colour ink which is a bugger on your wallet. Which are bigger, JPEGs or GIFs? Each picture takes ages to download so please compress it and when scanning put down the quality of the picture as it does not matter if what your scanning is black and white. Upping the esolution will be suicide in itself. Think about it! The pictures will take even longer to load.

AOL may be crap in terms of price but you do get decent services and has IE4 integrated into the browser so claiming the AOL browser is shite is ludicrous. You can print in AOL and your site comes out how it was meant to be.

As for your prediction, CROATIA will be going out tonight OK so yours is wrong. Shame Holland did not beat Brazil as they deserved to.

From Patrick Botti

Subject: Marseillaise
Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 17:12:44 -0400
From: Patrick Botti <>

This is great.

Merci mille fois de la part du Chef d'Orchestre Français du French Symphony of Boston, who is going to conduct an entire POPS/Classical Bastille Day Concert in Boston on July 15, and needed to give a copy (via web) of the music (word and music) to the singer who is going to sing it.

Excellent travail...

Patrick Botti

From Stéphane Roussan

Subject: Marseillaise - merci!
Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 23:23:13 -0400
From: Stephan Roussan <>

We're hosting a huge party for the finals of the Coupe du Monde.
Such an event could not be complete without the words to the Marseillaise!
Thanks for your helpful site.


Stéphane Roussan

From Margaret Varra

Subject: Marseillaise
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 1998 09:07:01 -0700
From: Pro Video <>

What fun and thank you. I've always wondered about the words as I don't know French, wow America The Beautiful seems quite milk toasty next to this blood curdling herald.
Margaret Varra

From Charlotte L. Kovalenko

Subject: Marseillaise comments
Date: Wed, 09 Sep 1998 13:15:02 -0700
From: Charlotte L. Kovalenko <>

Thank you so very much for having a site for the Marseillaise. I am making a trip to France at the end of September and even though I had lived there 42 years ago, I had forgetten the words. I have never seen a translation of the Marseillaise so I thank you for that as well.

Charlotte L Kovalenko, Seattle, WA

From David and Beth James

Subject: Other Marseillaise translations
Date: Sun, 13 Sep 1998 00:08:10 -0700
From: David & Beth James (personal) <>

Thank you for preparing this interesting Web page with the several different English translations, all of them interesting. Nothing beats the original French, however, for combined effect or horror and beauty.

From Anthony Wareham

Subject: Marseillaise help
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 17:00:20 +0100
From: Anthony Wareham <>

You may have saved my daughter's life with your web page. Serious trouble from her French teacher if she didn't find any information on the Marseillaise.

From Lee Jones

Subject: Comments
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 07:38:36 +0930
From: Lee Jones <>

I want to thank you for your efforts in putting this site together, and especially for your translation. I recently became a fan of "military music" after taping some cd's for my partner. I had, like most people probably, heard the Marseillaise many times, but had only a vague idea of what the words were about. One of the cd's I taped is called "Marches et Fanfares" played by La Garde Republicaine. It has the Marseillaise sung by a woman in such a stirring way that when I listened to it it sent a shiver down my spine - although I couldn't understand the words her voice was so pure and so full of conviction and passion that the words seemed almost unimportant. For the last few days I have been playing it on my way to work in the mornings and I feel inspired and powerful. I went looking on the web for the words because I thought such a rousing piece of music must have the interest of many people. I like this quote from the notes with the cd I mentioned above: "It (military music) is the sort of music which makes you feel you are on the road to somewhere and it will be worth getting there." I wish you well with your studies and thanks again,
Lee Jones

From Karen Wilson

Subject: Marseillaise comments
Date: Sun, 10 Jan 1999 20:12:32 -0500
From: Karen Wilson <>

Merci beaucoup. I am a music teacher creating a passport curriculum for my students. I want them to learn the national anthems of all the countries we are studying. I was interested in the historical background of "La Marseillaise". Your site has provided me with a great deal of information.
I love searching the web because you never know what you will find. In scrolling down your list of fan letters and comments I came across the name, Patrick Botti. While I am not the singer who needed the words and music of this anthem, I am a singer who (with my husband) has sung under his baton many times.
You just never know what you may find!

Karen Hastie-Wilson
Massachusetts, USA

From Page Gordon

Subject: Marseillaise help
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 19:42:17 -0600
From: David Gordon <>

Hello, thought your page was great, I have been wanting to learn the French national anthem for awhile now. I am a WWII reenactor, my impression is of a member of the French Resistance. How can we not know the Marseillaise? The only thing that I missed from your page was a sound file with the lyrics! Keep up the good work..

Page Gordon

From Karl Demuth

Subject: Thanks
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 21:47:21 -0500
From: Karl Demuth <>

I am a retired university adminstrator on Long Island, New York. I happen to be teaching a course on the French Revolution, a subject with which I have had some familiarity over the years, to a group of fellow retirees at my old university. As part of the course I planned to play Berlioz' arrangement of La Marseillaise in a few weeks when I get to 1792. I have the Zinman CD, but unaccountably it does not include any lyrics. I am not nearly as experienced on the Internet as you evidently are, but I thought on the off chance I would try a search. First I came up with the French lyrics, which I do want, but not many of my students can read French. Then I found your remarkable site. I was astonished ---and gratified--- to find that you provided the English translation. I am still stunned. Thank you very much! I will certainly credit you by name to my students when I give them the lyrics and play the CD.

From Thierry Sabathé

Subject: Marseillaise
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 16:14:44 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Thierry Sabathé <>

Congratulations Iain !

Your translation notes are particularly perspicacious. Until the age of 18, I had not understood what the 3rd stanza exactly meant. "Contre" sounded like a verb but "counter us from tyranny" was not very clear. Your first translation is the good one: there is an inversion indeed (but the second interpretation also is defensible). The syntax of the whole song departs substantially from "canonical syntax" (subject+verb+direct object+indirect object+adverbial phrases) although French language does this more readily than English; so the whole Marseillaise sounds odd (/beautiful) even to French hears.

As for Tony Ryan's remark, the latter must feel reassured: most of the French (90)know only the first verse and the refrain. According to my personal experience, 5016000000000f them are not even aware there is more than one verse!

Recently, some stated it is too bloody and suggested alternative lyrics: quite expectedly the result often is flabby and wet and does not convey any more the terrible fate of a population fighting the rest of Europe for its survival (I say that regarless of whether they were right or wrong, of course). I think that if the French want to adopt a new national anthem they should just invent a new one rather than distort the Marseillaise. And remember who they owe their present happiness, too.

Thierry Sabathé

From Thomas Thiers

Subject: Marseillaise audio files
Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 01:39:22 +0200
From: Thomas Thiers <>

Hey guys,

Don't worry your site is pretty cool and I love France so no problem.


From Susan Shelton

Subject: About la Marseillaise
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 12:18:15 -0500
From: Susan B. Shelton <>

Merci Beaucoup! I decided to have a Bastille Day party and thought, "Wouldn't it be neat to include the sheet music to La Marseillaise in my invitations. Started looking, and, le voila! It didn't even take much time to find it. I'll be the only one flying the Tricolor on July 14th in Abilene, Texas, rest assured. And now, I even have the sheet music, to boot. TOO COOL. Love your website, Francophile that I am. Happy Bastille Day to you!

From Sarah Milledge

Subject: Marseillaise comments
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 14:08:06 +1000
From: Sarah Milledge <>

Had a lot of fun listening to the Marseillaise on Bastille Day. Lots of us Francophiles down here in Melbourne Australia. If you come, you must visit FRANCE SOIR RESTAURANT or the Alliance Francaise in St Kilda on a Tuesday night.
Sarah Milledge

From Pat Aakhus

Subject: Marseillaise
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 10:08:19 EDT
From: Pat Aakhus <>

Thank you for scanning La Marseillaise into the web, so we can sing it at dinner tonight! A joyful Bastille Day to you--we wish we were in Paris--
Pat Aakhus
Evansville, Indiana

From MzEllie2

Subject: Marseillaise liberal translation
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 22:56:39 EDT
From: <>

Everytime we see "Casablanca" - and the singing of LaMarseillaise drowns out
the Germans Watch on the Rhine - we stand up and hum the tune. Thanks to
you, we now have the lyrics.
Awfully sweet of you.

From colette owen

Subject: About la marseillaise
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 17:19:21 -0500
From: "colette owen" <>
To: <>

Being French, I want to express my appreciation at the very sincere and devoted efforts made to translate, as well as possible, both the true meaning and the spirit of the words of our national anthem, which is not a small task! Congratulations!
And I want to extend a special note of gratitude to Marvin Harold Cheiten who provided an excellently singable version of the 1st stanza ( though we, French, definitely think of France as Motherland, not Fatherland). Thanks so much!


Subject: About la marseillaise
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 2004 11:45:49 EDT

I came across this page whilst looking for sheet music. One of my greatest passions is playing the violin, only rivalled by my love for France. So this score was very much appreciated! I will play it with much gusto.

From Diana Borja

Subject: Votre site sur la marseillaise
From: diana_borja&
Date: Tue, 13 July 2004 16:34:58 -0500

We are a pharmaceutical business intelligence company in North Carolina and we just realized that tomorrow is Bastille Day.

We downloaded the lyrics and posted them on our wall so that we can all see the beautiful words of your anthem.

From Zoë Freeman

Subject: About la marseillaise
From: Nola Freeman <sidhenf&>
Date: Wed, 14 July 2004 21:01:19 -0700

How delighted I was this evening to find your brave website.
I am accustomed to listening to the Berlioz La Marseillaise by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on my local classical music radio station each year. Today I missed the broadcast and felt very disappointed. I went in search on the internet, not daring to hope that I would find the exact work I wanted to hear. But, Voila! Here you are. Thanks so much.

From Lanny Gibson

Subject: Marseillaise lyrics
From: Lanny Gibson <gibsons&>
Date: Wed, 14 July 2004 11:32:58 -0500

Merci beaucoup pour votre assistance aujourdhui...le quatorze de juillet! Les gens de France sont nos amis toujours, n'est-ce pas?

From I Gerard

Subject: About la Marseillaise
From: Lulu <lulumagenta&>
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 2004 01:34:58 -0700

I enjoyed reading your translation compendium. An American friend of mine was asking me for the full load of the Marseillaise, and I am stunned at how easy it was to get all the scoop and more on it!

However, I shall make one remark: your doubts about the translation of "carriere" -in the "Children's verse" number 6- by the Elysee people into "fight"

-you suggested "pit" as more appropriate, and I can't deny your visual evocation of a death pit to be understandable, though quite singular -

seems to reveal you as a non-native French speaker. (Correct me if I am wrong!) Carriere is "career", and in the context of la Marseillaise, this would be "la carriere militaire", the military career, which at the time of Rouget de Lille, was a very obvious one ( a religious career was a "vocation religieuse", but a "carriere" was what soldiers and civil servants entered deliberately. Everybody else... just did what their fathers did to put food on their plate....) Probably in 1792, the word "carriere " did not even need the qualificative "military" to be understood as such.

I think, therefore, that the word "fight " was judiciously chosen by the official translators, because -as you point out, a good translation transmutes the essence, not the shell of the words- the modern meaning of "career", in French or in English, is virtually entirely descriptive of administrative or business ambitions, and such modern connotations for children singing about the urge to defend their homeland would seem curiously prosaic, un-idealistic, or out of sync with times where few adolescents would consider the military as an ideal choice career. Children who sing of longing to enter the military career nowadays, smack rather of political incorrectness, no? I like "fight" better indeed...
What do you think?
Thank you for the great and fun work on your site.

Send your comments to