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Le 14 Juillet With A Song – Celebrate Bastille Day In French Posted by on Jul 10, 2019 in Culture, Music

It’s almost time to start le défilé (the parade) and light up les feux d’artifice (fireworks)! That’s right, le 14 juillet (Bastille Day) is this weekend and all of France is set to celebrate.

Image from Pixabay. Licensed by CC0.

En tant qu’Américain (as an American), July is a fun month in France. There’s 2 big fêtes nationales (national holidays) right after each other! That means it’s pretty much a whole month of celebration right before veryone gets ready for les vacances d’été (Summer vacation).

To set the mood and find a nice way en français to share some of the excitement behind all the bleu, blanc, rouge (blue, white, red, the colors of the French flag), I wanted to find a traditional song that is closely tied to le 14 juillet.

Et voilà: La Carmagnole

La Carmagnole is a folk song closely tied to la révolution française (the French revolution). It’s thought to have come from the south of France, gaining popularity à Marseille before spreading across the whole country.

The name comes the shirt les sans-culottes (the without-pants, a make-shift militia of peasants and commoners), wore as their military uniform. The shirt itself was taken from a traditional piece of clothing from a small town called Carmagnola.

All throughout la révolution, la Carmagnole was used as a battle cry and celebration song.

In fact, la chanson révolutionnaire (the revolutionary song) actually predates the national anthem, la Marseillaise! The melody behind the song is even older with traces found as far back as the 7th century.

The more modern version of La Carmagnole was seen as an important part of l’esprit de la révolution (the spirit of the revolution) and sung all around France as a new way to be proud of the freedom that came with the new France.

The simple lyrics and easy melody made it strong symbol in how every common person could sing along without having to worry about any of the elitism of more difficult music.

Les paroles (the lyrics) are dripping with French humor with the use of le second degré (sarcasm) to make fun of la Reine de France (the Queen of France), Marie Antoinette, and le Roi de France (the King of France), Louis XVI. The entire song refers to the unpopular monarchs with rather silly nicknames:

Madame Veto – Marie Antoinette
Monsieur Veto – Louis XVI

Take a moment and prepare for le 14 juillet and listen to La Carmagnole!

Voici la chanson avec les paroles et une traduction anglaise (here’s the song with the lyrics and an English translation):

La Carmagnole

Madame Veto avait promis,
Madame Veto avait promis.
de faire égorger tout Paris,
de faire égorger tout Paris.
Mais son coup a manqué
grâce à nos canonniers.

Madame Veto had promised.
Madame Veto had promised.
To cut everyone’s throat in Paris.
To cut everyone’s throat in Paris.
But she failed to do this,
Thanks to our gunners.

Refrain :
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son,
Vive le son.
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon.

Chorus
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound
Long live the sound
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound of the cannons.

Monsieur Veto avait promis (bis)
D’être fidèle à son pays, (bis)
Mais il y a manqué,
Ne faisons plus quartier.

Mr. Veto had promised (repeat)
To be loyal to his country, (repeat)
But he failed to be,
Let us show no mercy.

Refrain :
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son,
Vive le son.
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon.

Chorus
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound
Long live the sound
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound of the cannons.

Antoinette avait résolu (bis)
De nous faire tomber sur le cul; (bis)
Mais le coup a manqué
Elle a le nez cassé.

Antoinette had decided (repeat)
To drop us on our arses ; (repeat)
But the plan was foiled
And she fell on her face.

Refrain :
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son,
Vive le son.
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon.

Chorus
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound
Long live the sound
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound of the cannons.

Son Mari se croyant vainqueur, (bis)
Connaissait peu notre valeur, (bis)
Va, Louis, gros paour,
Du Temple dans la tour.

Her husband, thinking he was victorious, (repeat)
Little did he know our value, (repeat)
Go, Louis, big crybaby,
From the Temple into the tower.

Refrain :
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son,
Vive le son.
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon.

Chorus
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound
Long live the sound
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound of the cannons.

Les Suisses avaient promis, (bis)
Qu’ils feraient feu sur nos amis, (bis)
Mais comme ils ont sauté!
Comme ils ont tous dansé!

The Swiss had promised, (repeat)
That they would fire on our friends, (repeat)
But how they jumped!
How they all danced!

Refrain :
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son,
Vive le son.
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon.

Chorus
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound
Long live the sound
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound of the cannons.

Quand Antoinette vit la tour, (bis)
Elle voulut faire demi-tour, (bis)
Elle avait mal au coeur
De se voir sans honneur

When Antoinette saw the tower, (repeat)
She wanted to turn back, (repeat)
She is sick at heart
To see herself without honor.

Refrain (x3)

Chorus (x3)

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


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