Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Internationale

To hear “The Internationale” in some 40 languages, from Albanian to Zulu, see this page, kept by Russian scientist and photographer Vadim Makarov.

For full story see the Britannica Blog

In early May 1871, a French socialist named Eugene Pottier contemplated the smoking ruins of the Paris Commune and, in hiding from government troops, composed a dirge, its six verses promising that the workers of the world, who had been nothing, would one day be all:

In English approximation:

Arise, you wretched of the earth,
Arise, you convicts of hunger
Reason thunders from its crater
It is the eruption of the end
Let us erase the past,
Crowds, slaves, arise, arise
the world will utterly change
We have been nothing, let us be everything

In 1888, a textile worker named Pierre De Geyter (or Degeyter) set Pottier’s song to music, using a harmonium as his vehicle. The song, called “L’Internationale,” was immediately popular in French factories, and from there it set out on its long, history-altering journey around the world.

see Peter Miller’s excellent documentary The Internationale (2000).

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