Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day!

Sophomore year in high school, my French teacher Ms. Williams started each week off by teaching my class one line of La Marseillaise. By the end of the term, the thirteen of us could belt it out like pros. In fact, the following summer, nothing impressed my French host family more than my perfect rendition of the French national anthem when we sang it on Bastille Day.

We Americans are spoiled by a gorgeous (if difficult to sing) national anthem; few other countries are blessed with anthems as stirring or evocative. However, the French come pretty damn close. Plus, they don't stick with the allusions to bloodshed you find in The Star-Spangled Banner; they go right for the jugular, with lines like "ils viennent jusque dans nos bras/égorger nos fils, nos campagnes" (Translation: they come into our midst to slit the throats of our sons and our wives.).

On this Bastille Day, I hope you'll enjoy a perfect croissant - perhaps with a little strawberry jam - while watching one of my favorite versions of La Marseillaise, from a little movie you might have heard of: Casablanca.

Photo of La Colonne de Juillet (in the Place de la Bastille) courtesy of
Carlo Benedetti.

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