La Marseillaise

The French Revolution is often considered one of the most important revolutions in world history, because it was one of the most violent and yet romanticized series of events, and one of the most influential and impacting revolutions in history. For many, it served as a cautionary tale of what could happen to a country or a state if class struggles and separation became too great. (In fact, the French Revolution later impacted Karl Marx’s views toward capitalism and elitism. He came to see it as a step towards a proletarian revolution and heading down the path he was thinking.) However, such a revolution would not have occurred had it not been for those who inspired it with their speeches, their songs, or their essays. A state of discontent or disapproval is not enough to get a revolution started, rather, someone needs to stir the proverbial pot and provide a rallying cry around the misfortune. It’s quite ironic that the composer of one of the most famous pieces of the French Revolution was a royalist, who wrote it while defending France against the Austrians.

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((“La Marseillaise, French National Anthem (Fr/En),” YouTube video, 5:21, posted by “bursty13,” September 1,

La Marseillaise Sheet Music ((Rouget de Lisle, Claude Joseph. La Marseillaise. Retrieved from,_Claude-Joseph%29 ))


“La Marseillaise,” composed and written in April 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836), was quite the revolutionary piece of music. The song itself follows much like a march, and has an easy and catchy tune. The refrain of the piece, or the repeated part of music, has simple words and simple notes, and therefore makes it easy for everyone to sing, hum, or whisper along. Thus, it intrinsically represents one of the ideals presented by John Locke, and that many revolutionaries believed in – equal opportunity. More specifically, it presents the opportunity for everyone who wants to sing along to be able to sing along. The piece’s style, therefore, in itself makes it revolutionary.

Secondly, the lyrics make the song revolutionary as well. Often times, the lyrics express the need to defend the “fatherland” (verse one, line one) against the enemies “tyranny” (verse one, line three) and “savage soldiers” (verse one, line seven). The lyrics therefore express the unification of one group of people facing the oppression or aggression of another individual/group. Such a description also depicts what is considered to be a revolution. To be put simply, during the French Revolution, the suppressed impoverished and middle class unified to take on the oppression of royalty and nobility. Lastly, the second verse highlights the need for the defense of liberty and freedom, also a rallying cry of the French Revolution.

Lastly, the song generated lots of controversy in the years following the French Revolution due to its root history. Despite being declared France’s national anthem in the years following the Revolution, Napoleon I banned the piece soon after becoming ruler in France. Following this, the song underwent periods of being banned and legal for the next three quarters of a century. It appears that, for many, the piece’s revolutionary undertones were too much for the rulers that followed and as such, the piece consistently was controversial and under scrutiny. However, following its reinstatement as the national anthem in 1879, it has remained that way since then.

Possible Questions to Consider:

Do you agree with my argument that the song’s catchy nature makes it effective as a revolutionary song?

Why might a song be especially effective at transmitting attitudes and thoughts? Or rather, what might make a song more effective than an essay or a novel/book?

Are there any other famous revolutionary songs that you may be able to compare this one too?


3 thoughts on “La Marseillaise

  1. Firstly, you provide an excellent introduction, with much detail on the background of the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise, and why Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a French royalist, wrote it in the first place. The song is very catchy and provides phrases meant to unify the people of France to fight against tyranny. I agree with your statement that the song’s catchy nature makes it effective as a revolutionary song because the lyrics helped unify the people of France in a time of defending their liberty and freedom. Also, you provide an impressive explanation of the lyrics and overview of the controversy caused by this song. Songs typically are more effective at transmitting attitudes or thoughts than books or novels because songs unify people and inspire them to believe as a whole. Another famous revolutionary song I can compare to this one, in terms of its importance to its nation, is the national anthem of the United States. Like La Marseillaise, the national anthem of the United States is very catchy and revolutionary, as it unifies a nation of people through singing. Another famous revolutionary song La Marseillaise can be compared to is “The Internationale”, a revolutionary song from the socialist movement during the 19th century. Both “The Internationale” and La Marseillaise both argued against tyranny and received heavy scrutiny from a good population of listeners.

  2. I had not thought about the fact that the song is “easy for everyone to sing, hum, or whisper along” and would therefore promote the idea of equality; it is an excellent observation! As to your question as to what makes a song more effective at communicating attitudes and thoughts than a longer work of prose, I think that the catchy nature of song is once again responsible. In addition to this quality making the song easy to sing allow with, it also makes it simple to remember and transmit to others.

    You asked about other revolutionary songs in comparison to “La Marseillaise,” but I would actually like to contrast the French national anthem with that of the United Kingdom: “God Save the Queen.” Just from the title of the song, the difference becomes apparent. The difference in the message of their national anthems underlines a key difference between the mindsets of the two countries. In the UK, the queen is mainly a figurehead, but she still holds an important position in the hearts and minds of many Brits, and even many Americans. The Queen represents the UK. However, the French national anthem makes it clear that any king would be a tyrant.

  3. Your take on La Marseillaise is very interesting and impressive. I agree with the standpoint that you took, specifically on the lyrics, and how it makes the song in its entirety – revolutionary. Songs such as these should provide on hand the inspiration needed to motivate a group of people to fight for a cause or do something they have their full belief in. This case in particular embodies the strength of the song, specifically from the tyranny of French power onto the helpless lower estates. But with the unification of the impoverished and the middle class, the revolution took a turn.

    Songs are a more successful way of transmitting thoughts, attitude, and emotion, as when listening to specific lyrics, various events could affect an individual in many ways as each person has their own experiences. This is seemingly better than reading a novel or book, because their is no tone to express how the author intended the reader/listener to take the message that was provided, besides punctuation and other forms of grammar.

    Overall I believe this was a stellar post, and the analysis of the French Revolution to La Marseillaise in connection to these events was very well written.

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