PARTANT POUR LA SYRIE. This popular romance dates from 1809, shortly before the battle of Wagram. The words were by Count Alexandre de Laborde, a man of lively imagination in considerable repute as a poète de circonstance. One evening Queen Hortense showed him a picture representing a knight clad in armour, cutting an inscription on a stone with the point of his sword, and at the request of the company he elucidated it by a little romance invented on the spot. An entreaty to put it into verse followed, and Queen Hortense set the lines to music. Such was the origin of 'Le Départ pour la Syrie,' of which we give the music, and the first stanza.
The troubadour style of both words and music hit the taste of the day, the song went through every phase of success, and was even parodied. When Louis Napoleon mounted the throne of France in 1853, his mother's little melody was recalled to mind, and although of a sentimental rather than martial turn, it became the national air, arranged, in default of fresh words, solely for military bands. In this arrangement the last phrase is repeated, closing for the first time on the third of the key.
The credit of having composed this little song has more than once been denied to Queen Hortense, and Drouet in his Memoirs claims to have had at least a half share in the composition. Others have advanced a similar claim in favour of Narcisse Carbonel (1773 to 1855), who organised Queen Hortense's concerts, and was her usual accompanyist. No doubt he looked over and corrected most of his royal pupil's improvisations; at least that is no unfair inference from Mlle. Cochelet's (Mme. Parquin) 'Memoires sur la Reine Hortense' (i. 45). But there is no decisive evidence either one way or the other.—Dussek
's variations on the tune were at one time very popular.