'War song' for French schools
As a call to arms, few national hymns are as bloody as La Marseillaise. Originally entitled the War Song of the Army of the Rhine, it exhorts citizens of France to take up arms: “Form in batallions, March, march! Let impure blood water our furrows!’‘
Now, after a 10-year battle, French schoolchildren are to be made to learn the words after a vote by French MPs. The idea is to “transmit to each and every pupil the history of a people united around the values of liberty, equality and fraternity — the history of a people who have never stopped fighting for freedom”, according to the politician behind the proposal.
Jerome Riviere, from the ruling right-of-centre UMP Party, said he wanted to build on a decision two years ago that made insulting the national hymn an offence punishable by a fine of â,¬7 500.
The new measure was passed by the French National Assembly as an amendment to education reforms that have brought mass student demonstrations across France.
La Marseillaise was composed in 1792 by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, a captain of the Engineers in the Rhine army. France had just declared war on Austria and Prussia and its army was preparing to march on Paris. It became so popular with volunteer army units from Marseilles that it was named after them. — Â