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How Benjamin Franklin Inspired A Revolutionary Song – Celebrating Bastille Day In French Posted by on Jul 17, 2019 in Culture, Music

With a weekend filled with fireworks and French pride, I thought it’d be fun to look into une chanson patriotique (a patriotic song) other than la Marsaillaise.

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

L’hymne national français (the French national anthem) is known all around the world. Even if people are a little hazy on les paroles (the lyrics), the first few notes are immediately recognizable.

Mais y a-t-il d’autres chansons pour la fête nationale ?
But are there any other songs for the national holiday?

Beyond la Carmagnole from last week, there are other fun and memorable patriotic songs that are important to l’histoire française (French history).

One that caught my attention even has a connection to l’histoire américaine (American history)!

Ah ! Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira !
Ah! It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine!

La chanson (the song) and its iconic chorus is a symbol of la révolution française. It’s said that the name and chorus were inspired by none other than Benjamin Franklin. During his time in Paris while la guerre d’Indépendance américaine (the Revolutionary War, literally: the War of American Independence) was raging on he became something of a French celebrity.

Legend has it that when asked how la guerre was going, Benjamin Franklin would respond in broken French:

Ça ira, ça ira.
It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine.

From that simple response une chanson révolutionnaire (a revolutionary song) was born and has been covered many times since la révolution.

Listen to the Ah ! Ça ira sung by the famous Edith Piaf and keep up the spirit of the July celebrations!

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

Ça ira
It’ll be fine

Refrain:
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates à la lanterne !
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates, on les pendra !

Ah! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine!
Aristocrats to the lamp-post*!
Ahh! It will be fine! It will be fine! It will be fine!
We will hang the aristocrats!

*euphemism for la guillotine

Trois cents ans qu’ils nous promettent
Qu’on va nous accorder du pain.
Voilà trois cents ans qu’ils donnent des fêtes
Et qu’ils entretiennent des catins !
Voilà trois cents ans qu’on nous écrase
Assez de mensonges et de phrases !
On ne veut plus mourir de faim !

For three hundred years they promised us
They would give us bread.
Well, for three hundred years they feasted
And entertained harlots!
And for three hundred years this crushed us
Enough of these lies and empty words!
We will not die of hunger!

Refrain:
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates à la lanterne !
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates, on les pendra !

Chorus:
Ah! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine!
Aristocrats to the lamp-post!
Ahh! It will be fine! It will be fine! It will be fine!
We will hang the aristocrats!

Voilà trois cents ans qu’ils font la guerre
Au son des fifres et des tambours
En nous laissant crever de misère.
Ça ne pouvait pas durer toujours…
Voilà trois cent ans qu’ils prennent nos hommes
Qu’ils nous traitent comme des bêtes de somme.
Ça ne pouvait pas durer toujours !

Well, for three hundred years they waged war
To the sound of fifes and drums
And left us to perish in misery.
It could not go on forever…
Yes, for three centuries they took our men
Oh how they treat us like beasts of burden.
It could not go on forever!

Refrain:
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates à la lanterne !
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates, on les pendra !

Chorus:
Ah! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine!
Aristocrats to the lamp-post!
Ahh! It will be fine! It will be fine! It will be fine!
We will hang the aristocrats!

Le châtiment pour vous s’apprête
Car le peuple reprend ses droits.
Vous vous êtes bien payé nos têtes,
C’en est fini, messieurs les rois !
Il faut plus compter sur les nôtres :
On va s’offrir maintenant les vôtres,
Car c’est nous qui faisons la loi !

Your punishment awaits you
For the people are standing up for their rights.
You have been well paid with our heads,
It is finished, gentlemen-kings!
We must now rely on ourselves:
And we offer you your returns1
Because we now make the law!

Refrain:
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates à la lanterne !
Ah! Ça ira ! Ça ira ! Ça ira !
Les aristocrates, on les pendra !

Chorus:
Ah! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine! It’ll be fine!
Aristocrats to the lamp-post!
Ahh! It will be fine! It will be fine! It will be fine!
We will hang the aristocrats!

Translation from LyricsTranslate.

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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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