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Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 14 is Bastille Day

If you're here for Jonah Goldberg's classic article on the subject, here you go: The French are Revolting.
 Allons enfants de la Patrie,                   Arise you children of the motherland,
 Le jour de gloire est arrivé!                    The day of glory has arrived!
 Contre nous de la tyrannie,                   Against us, tyranny
 L'étendard sanglant est levé,                 Has raised its bloodied banner,
 Entendez-vous dans les campagnes      Do you hear, in the fields,
 Mugir ces féroces soldats?                   The howling of these fearsome soldiers?
 Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras          They are coming into your midst
 Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!          To slit the throats of your sons and consorts!

Refrain                                                Chorus
 Aux armes, citoyens,                            To arms, citizens!
 Formez vos bataillons,                          Form your battalions!
 Marchons, marchons!                            Let us march, let us march!
 Qu'un sang impur                                  May impure blood
 Abreuve nos sillons!                              Soak the furrows of our fields!

~ Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle (1760-1836) ("La Marseillaise", first verse. Six more follow, all more or less equally bloodthirsty. *
The Storming of the Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houël
France has neither winter nor summer nor morals - apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country. 

~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) (Anderson, ed., Mark Twain's Notebooks and Journals, Vol. 2, Notebook 18)

Old France , weighed down with history, prostrated by wars and revolutions, endlessly vacillating from greatness to decline, but revived, century after century, by the genius of renewal.

~ Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) (War Memoirs, Vol. 3, Ch. 7)

The Bastille was later demolished - the Place de la Bastille
 sits where the fortress once stood
July 14th is Bastille Day (wiki), which commemorates the storming of the ancient royal prison of that name in Paris on 14 July 1789, an event which marked the beginning of the French Revolution. That storming was, of course, more symbolic than substantial - as Jonah Goldberg points out in his classic Bastille Day column, it consisted of "the capture of an almost entirely empty prison, the cold-blooded murder of six unarmed soldiers, and the execution of one French governor already captured by the mob". On that day the Bastille held only seven inmates: four forgers, two madmen, and a young rake who had displeased his father. All were freed.

The Marseillais volunteers departing, sculpted on the Arc de Triomphe
Formally known as the Bastille Saint-Antoine, the fortress was built during the Hundred Years’ War to defend the eastern approaches of Paris from English attacks. It Consisted of eight 100-foot high towers, all linked together by equally tall walls, surrounded by 80 foot wide moat. By 1789 the Bastille was actually little used and was scheduled to be demolished, part of the reason why there were so few prisoners there that day.

*La Marseillaise, France's stirring national anthem, was written in Strasbourg on 25 April 1792 by French captain Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle and originally titled the "Marching Song of the Army of the Rhine." It gained instant popularity as a rallying song and gained its latter-day name from being first sung in the streets of Paris by newly arrived troops from Marseilles. The remaining verses are available at Wikipedia

La Marseillaise was banned in both Vichy and German-occupied France during World War II, and also during the 19th-century French Empire under Napoleon III because of its revolutionary sentiments.  

Has there every been a more stirring rendition than the one at Rick's "Café Americaine" in Casablanca?

Related post: French King Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21, 1793. Here's Allan Sherman (because if you're of a certain age it's inevitable to think of Allan Sherman when you hear La Marseillaise:

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