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La Carmagnole/ Ah! ça ira

Two of the most popular tunes of the Revolution, La Carmagnole and Ah! ça ira (here combined in an instrumental medley) were both conceived in the turmoil of the streets of Paris and spoke to the salient themes of class struggle and aggressive nationalism.

The first title refers in part to a style of short jacket worn by members of the working class. Just as long pants distinguished the sans-culottes from the traditional soldiers of the ancien régime, the carmagnole represented a style of politics as well as dress, and would become an indentifying feature of the citizen-soldiers of the Revolutionary armies. ‘Carmagnole’ also refers to a spontaneous style of dancing associated with the Italian city of that name, dancing that would be closely associated with the vengeful triumphs of the Paris mob. The song is thought to have originated at the time of the August 10 attack on the Tuileries, in which the massacre of the Swiss Guard was followed by incongruously joyful dancing. As the lyrics below suggest, the animus behind the attack was directed at both the king and queen, with a special venom reserved for the latter.

Also closely associated with the citizen-soldiers of the Revolutionary army, Ah! ça ira derived from an expression attributed to Benjamin Franklin during the time of the American Revolution. While in Paris seeking French support for the American cause, Franklin was known to respond to inquiries about the fate of the colonial independence movement with the expression “Ah! ça ira,” (All will be well), a phrase that would later reassure the French that their struggle for liberty would meet with similar success.


La Carmagnole


Madame Veto avait promis, (bis),
De faire égorger tout Paris, (bis),
Mais son coup a manqué
Grâce à nos canonniers.

Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son, (bis)
Dansons la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon.

Monsieur Veto avait promis, (bis)
D’être fidèle à son pays, (bis)
Mais il y a manqué,
Ne faisons plus quartier. [Refrain]

Antoinette avait résolu (bis)
De nous faire tomber sur le cul; (bis)
Mais le coup a manqué
Elle a le nez cassé. [Refrain]

Son Mari se croyant vainqueur, (bis)
Connaissait peu notre valeur, (bis)
Va, Louis, gros paour,
Du Temple dans la tour. [Refrain]

Les Suisses avaient promis, (bis)
Qu’ils feraient feu sur nos amis, (bis)
Mais comme ils ont sauté!
Comme ils ont tous dansé! [Refrain]

Quand Antoinette vit la tour, (bis)
Elle voulut faire demi-tour, (bis)
Elle avait mal au coeur,
De se voir sans honneur. [Refrain]

Madame Veto had promised, (repeat)
To cut everyone’s throat in Paris. (repeat)
But she failed to do this,
Thanks to our gunners.

Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound, (repeat)
Let us dance the Carmagnole
Long live the sound of the cannons.

Mr. Veto had promised (repeat)
To be loyal to his country, (repeat)
But he failed to be,
Let us show no mercy. [Chorus]

Antoinette had decided (repeat)
To drop us on our arses, (repeat)
But the plan was foiled
And she fell on her face. [Chorus]

Her husband, thinking he was victorious, (repeat)
Little did he know our value, (repeat)
Go, Louis, big crybaby,
From the Temple into the tower. [Chorus]

The Swiss had promised, (repeat)
That they would fire on our friends, (repeat)
But how they jumped!
How they all danced! [Chorus]

When Antoinette saw the tower, (repeat)
She wanted to turn back, (repeat)
She is sick at heart
To see herself without honor. [Chorus]


Ah! ça ira


Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira

Le peuple en ce jour sans cesse répète,
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Malgré les mutins tout réussira.
Nos ennemis confus en restent là
Et nous allons chanter “Alléluia !”
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Quand Boileau jadis du clergé parla
Comme un prophète il a prédit cela.
En chantant ma chansonnette
Avec plaisir on dira :
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Suivant les maximes de l’évangile
Du législateur tout s’accomplira.
Celui qui s’élève on l’abaissera,
Celui qui s’abaisse on l’élèvera.
Le vrai catéchisme nous instruira
Et l’affreux fanatisme s’éteindra.
Pour être à la loi docile
Tout Français s’exercera.
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Pierrette et Margot chantent la guinguette,
Réjouissons-nous, le bon temps viendra !
Le peuple français jadis à quia,
L’aristocrate dit “Mea culpa!
Le clergé regrette le bien qu’il a,
Par justice, la nation l’aura.
Par le prudent Lafayette,
Tout le monde s’apaisera.
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Par les flambeaux de l’auguste assemblée,
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Le peuple armé toujours se gardera.
Le vrai d’avec le faux l’on connaîtra,
Le citoyen pour le bien soutiendra.
Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira
Quand l’aristocrate protestera,
Le bon citoyen au nez lui rira,
Sans avoir l’âme troublée,
Toujours le plus fort sera.
Petits comme grands sont soldats dans l’âme,
Pendant la guerre aucun ne trahira.
Avec cœur tout bon Français combattra,
S’il voit du louche, hardiment parlera.
“vienne qui voudra !”
Sans craindre ni feu, ni flamme,
Le Français toujours vaincra!

Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
The people on this day repeat over and over,
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
In spite of the mutineers everything shall succeed.
Our enemies, confounded, stay petrified
And we shall sing “Hallelujah!”
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
When Boileau used to speak about the clergy
Like a prophet he predicted this.
By singing my little song
With pleasure people shall say,
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
According to the precepts of the Gospel
Of the lawmaker everything shall be accomplished.
The one who puts on airs shall be brought down,
The one who is humble shall be elevated.
The true catechism shall instruct us
And the awful fanaticism shall be snuffed out.
At being obedient to Law
Every Frenchman shall train.
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
Pierrette and Margot sing the guinguette,
Let us rejoice, good times will come !
The French people used to keep silent,
The aristocrat says “Mea culpa!
The clergy regrets its wealth,
The state, with justice, will get it.
Thanks to the careful Lafayette,
Everyone will calm down.
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
By the torches of the august assembly,
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
An armed people will always take care of themselves.
We’ll know right from wrong,
The citizen will support the Good.
Ah! It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine, It’ll be fine
When the aristocrat shall protest,
The good citizen will laugh in his face,
Without troubling his soul,
And will always be the stronger.
Small ones and great ones all have the soul of a soldier,
During war none shall betray.
With heart all good French people will fight,
If he sees something fishy he shall speak with courage.
Lafayette says “come if you will!”
Without fear for fire or flame,
The French always shall win!