La Marseillaise - La carrière

One of the more interesting passages of the Marseillaise appears in verse 7.

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus

In my initial work I translated this as

We shall enter into the pit
When our elders will no longer be there
There we shall find their ashes
And the mark of their virtues

I saw the imagery as one of returning to the site of a former battle, or even to a mass grave, and laying plans for the next war.

Whilst I had become quite attached to such a poetic concept, enough people have written to me over the years to plead the case of the more prosaic career for carrière, referring to a career in military service, that I have amended my translation accordingly.

We too shall enlist
When our elders' time has come
To add to the list of deeds
Inscribed upon their tombs

From Yvan Roche

"Carrière" can mean pit, there is no doubt about it. But here, they talk of the "career", the military career. Thus, this line means "we shall join up" and nothing else. I rely on you to find a rhyming translation, this is far beyond my ability.

From fanny

je ne suis pas très forte en français mais je suis presque certaine que l'expression "entrer dans la carriere" c'est entrer dans le metier (ici ca fait allusion au metier de soldat) ou faire le metier.

ca doit venir des mines avant on envoyait des enfants dans les mines (dans le nord de la france et je pense aussi en angleterre) et on devait surement dire qu'ils entraient dans la carriere pour dire qu'ils entrent dans le metier de mineur je ne pense pas que ca veut dire qu'ils retournent au lieu de l'ancienne bataille ca serait trop terre à terre pour une chanson aussi symbolique.

From I Gerard

Carriere is "career", and in the context of la Marseillaise, this would be "la carriere militaire", the military career, which at the time of Rouget de Lille, was a very obvious one ( a religious career was a "vocation religieuse", but a "carriere" was what soldiers and civil servants entered deliberately. Everybody else... just did what their fathers did to put food on their plate....) Probably in 1792, the word "carriere" did not even need the qualificative "military" to be understood as such.

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