Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Aux armes, citoyens!

Like Modernity, I forgot to mark Bastille Day yesterday (though, lowbrow that I am, I did take a peek at the photos of the Sarkozys getting frisky at the official celebrations). And like Mod, I'm a sucker for the Marseillaise, especially this version from Casablanca. (Thought for the day: All men secretly wish they were Victor Laszlo, are lucky if they have the odd moment of nobility like Rick, but most of the time end up behaving like Captain Renault.)

9 comments:

Martin Meenagh said...

I don't know about Victor Laszlo. I think that the most to which I can aspire is Rick; but Renault isn't that bad.... I can think of a few versions of Peter Lorre, though.

Hope all is well. I tend to get drunk at Christmas and cry at the scene you linked to, so I get your point about The Marseillaise. Have you seen the young Mireille Mathieu's version, with the Eiffel tower as a backdrop?

ModernityBlog said...

thanks for that, and apologies I have just now remember to update my blogroll to include you :)

Martin said...

Thanks for the comments. And for the suggestions about the Mireille Mathieu version - just found it at Youtube. Makes you jealous that we, unlike the republican French and the Americans, don't have an anthem that's progressive, unifying and that we can sing with pride rather than embarrassment, doesn't it?

kellie said...

Here some drawings by Ronald Searle for Bastille Day.

Martin said...

Great stuff! A lighthearted reminder of the dark side of the Revolution.

Martin Meenagh said...

My Country 'tis of thee is a lovely tune, and was revolutionary when sung by civil rights marchers in the south-it is of course the tune of 'God Save the Queen'. The little Beethoven riffs on the tune aren't bad, either, though I prefer the Kaiserlied.

I don't agree about the French Revolution--as I get older I see it as a murderous consequence of the overvaulting baroque state and a vast anticatholic revolt more than anything else.

There's a Monty Python question for you--what did the French Revolution ever do for you?

Still, nice tune. England has nice ones, but they're all maimed by Empire. How about new words for 'I vow to thee my country', or 'There'll always be an England'?

Martin said...

Martin - I share some of your ambivalence about the French Revolution, but as for 'what has it ever done for us?' - how about the fact that its ideas inspired the much less bloody American revolution? And the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity will probably outlast those of 20th century socialist revolutions....

The problem of an English anthem is a thorny one - it probably does have to be English (or Scottish, or Welsh) - who gets excited about 'Britain'? 'Jerusalem' would be great for England, though not quite as stirring as 'Flower of Scotland', and all that stuff about chariots of fire and dark satanic mills gets misunderstood...

I didn't know 'My country 'tis of thee' until Obama's inauguration, and I thought it rescued a much abused tune (I'm not a royalist, as you can see.

Martin Meenagh said...

Well, I tae your point that there are American Revolutions and American revolutions; the 1789 French revolution was in part driven by America's failure to pay back the money it was leant for the 1776-81 revolutionary war, and then it had the 1788 Constitutional revolution, but jefferson and Jackson were in a way revolutionary and French too.

However, this is where--broadly after 1800--America became more destructive of the natives and the slaves; was that French side to the American revolutionaries really peaceful?

The Americans developed from a combination of classical, English and Scottish traditions. They turned their government; the French detonated theirs and invented nationalism and rationalistic statist destruction, I think.

I'm not a royalist, but I think that you can have the benefits of a republic with a monarchy, and the loss of the rule of law--true republicanism--with a presidency.

The original tune of the American anthem, O Say Can You See, by the way, is an English drinking song--'To Anacreon in Heaven we Raise Our Glass High'. It seems appropriate for a republic. My country Tis of Thee, and the flag, are fairly revolutionary in the south, and to British ears, the tendency of American graduation classes to play 'Land of Hope and Glory' is too. I guess I mean, overall, that tunes can be good but the words are what matter, which is your point. After all, even 'O Lord My God/When I in Awesome Wonder' is the tune of the Nazi's 'Die Fahnen Hoch/ Horst Wessel Song'.

Anyway, look, your blog is great and thanks for allowing me the long comment.

KB Player said...

I was in Croatia on 25 June, which is their independence day, i.e. when they became independent from Yugoslavia. A Croatian woman told me this and asked when was our independence day? Er, um, we don't have one, was my answer. So it's a different history. We used to have an Empire Day, which was introduced in 1904 - Kipling was very much in favour of it (no surprise).

Yeah, the French definitely score with their anthem which is rousing and singable. The Star Spangled Banner is really difficult to sing. God Save the Queen is dreadful. Jerusalem is great and when the UK finally breaks up will no doubt be adopted by the English. Flower of Scotland is a miserable nationalistic dirge and I wish they'd adopt the last verse of A Man's a Man for a' that, which has a good tune and fine, brotherhood of man lyrics. No chance of that - everyone knows Flower of Scotland which is sung in pubs & at sporting events.

Rule Britannia is good and upbeat but hopelessly out of date - no-one expects Britannia to rule the waves. Land of Hope and Glory is too hymnlike. I'd commission Richard Thompson or Ray Davies to write something appropriate.