Way back in 18th-century France, an army engineer named Rouget de Lisle wrote a piece of music – a chant de guerre, a war song.
Revolutionary types got hold of it and made it theirs. Volunteers from Marseille, on a march against the French King, entered Paris on July 30th, 1792, singing the song with such fervor that so many in the City of Light were thrilled by it; they named it “La Marseillaise.”
For decades the melody sort of represented France but it was not until 1958 that it was made the official national anthem.
(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Z" is for "zeal.")Here’s this week’s Berownial quiz question. It’s about a well-known song. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is: name the song.
“You don’t understand. I’ve got nothing against the song as a song. It’s beautiful.”
“Then why are you against adopting it as our official theme?”
“It’s confusing. Originally it was a chant de guerre, a war song – full of patriotic zeal and all that. Then the rebels got hold of it; the whole meaning changed. Suddenly it was part of, a kind of trigger for, the Revolution. For the composer it was like a kick in the belly; he was horrified.”
“Well, I hate to hurt the composer’s feelings, but a song was very much needed and this seems to fill the bill. Besides, when those guys from the south showed up on a march against the French king while singing this piece, people went wild.”
“I know. There are some who immediately claimed it should be declared official, but it’s really just a song named after a southern town. Strange that anyone would consider it appropriate for other sections of the country.”
“But they do! If this is what they want, I say let’s give it to them.”
“Well, there’s another problem. We need a piece that can be sung by everyone, school kids as well as adults. Have you read the hapless lyrics? Talk about blood and guts – it’s too much!”
“There’s no need to emphasize such delinquent stuff when you’re singing the song. You just need to keep the emphasis on the uplifting theme.”
“Here, read the lyrics. It’s about killing, no use pretending it isn’t. It’s about slaughtering the forces of the enemy so that their blood will fertilize our fields. Their blood will be flowing down the plowed furrows! You’re going to have five-year-olds singing this in kindergarten?”
“Well, it’s strong, no question about that. But we need a strong song as a national anthem and it’s simply a fact that it has caught the imagination of a great many people around the world.”
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)