Campaigns are periodically mounted by more or less louche individuals to change the words of La Marseillaise, France’s national anthem. I personally see nothing wrong with the words of that anthem, which reflects the context at the time it was composed and, to a lesser extent, the rather tense moment when it became France’s official anthem §.
I’m less happy with La Marseillaise’s music. It’s a bit too fast to be dignified in non-military ceremonies. M Giscard d’Estaing tried to mitigate this issue by ordering it to be played at a slower tempo. The result, unfortunately, was a tune that had lost its martial entrain without having become in any way majestic. M Mitterrand was probably right to revert to the original version—although this may seem paradoxical, since his wife, Madame Danielle Mitterrand, was a prominent campaigner for a change in its words.
My contribution to this debate is an alternative suggestion: rather than changing the words of La Marseillaise, why not bring back Partant pour la Syrie, which was France’s National Anthem during the Second Empire? The music is magnificent, the words are quite dignified and beautiful:
Liberties, admittedly, are taken with History, since the comte de Dunois was a companion of Joan of Arc, not a Crusader. The song is a throwback to France’s old tradition of amour courtois, yet it has an impeccable revolutionary—or at any rate Bonapartist—pedigree. This explains why it was banned under the Restoration, despite being more dignified than that régime’s unofficial
anthem, Vive Henri IV, whose unfortunate wording (it included the phrase
J’aimons les filles et j’aimons le bon vin), prevented it being played in the presence of the Royal Family.