Composed by a noted writer of operas, Etienne Méhul, with words by poet Joseph Chénier, “Le Chant due Départ (Song of Departure)” became an instant hit when first performed on the fifth anniversary of the Revolution (14 July 1794). Originally titled “Anthem to Liberty” it was renamed by no less a personage than Maximilien Robespierre, who leant his enthusiastic approval despite the fact that Chénier had been a supporter of the since-discredited Girondin faction. Within two weeks of the it’s emergence, Robespierre would be toppled and sent to the guillotine in the Thermidorian Reaction of 27 July, but the song’s popularity would live on, remaining a standard French military theme to the present day. Much of its fame is attributable to the multiple “voices” assigned to its various verses, three of which are included below.
Le Chant du Départ
Un député du Peuple
Une mère de famille
|A Deputy of the People
Opens for us the gates.
Liberty guides our steps.
And from the North to the South
The war trumpet
Signals the hour of the fight.
Tremble, enemies of France,
Kings drunk on blood and pride.
The sovereign People comes forth,
Tyrants go down to your graves.
A mother to her family