There is probably no popular song in history that has been translated into more languages around the world than the ancient Latin students’ song “Gaudeamus Igitur” (“Let Us Rejoice”). If you’re planning a homeschool graduation of sorts this Memorial Day weekend, maybe you’d like to introduce it to your students so they can join in fellowship with hundreds of thousands of other students who have sung it for centuries.
“Gaudeamus Igitur” is a student song — it’s decidedly irreverent, and a bit rowdy (when done right). It originated in the universities of the Middle Ages and is often sung today at graduation festivals, alumni events, and on other celebratory occasions. It praises youth, your school, your teachers, the local girls (it’s a medieval drinking song, after all), and the many generations of students who have gone before, in keeping with the ancient carpe-diem theme: “Let’s celebrate today, for tomorrow we may die.”
Here’s a properly sprightly version from the University of Illinois Varsity Men’s Glee Club:
A hundred different verses have been added over the ages — and you can come up with your own! — but the opening lines have always been:
Iuvenes dum sumus.
Iuvenes dum sumus.
Post iucundam iuventutem,
Post molestam senectutem,
Nos habebit humus —
Nos habebit humus.
The free English translation I’ve always liked is this one from J.H. Finley:
Jubilation now abound
For companions near us!
Jubilation now resound
For our youth to cheer us!
After youth, the bold, the airy,
Age advances cautionary.
Quiet then will hold us,
Quiet earth will enfold us.
Few songs, as noted above, are as international as this one. If your travels someday take you to Bulgaria, for example, you’ll feel right at home at tryouts for the New Bulgarian University Choir:
Or perhaps you’ll someday be called upon to attend a graduation ceremony in Jakarta at the Universitas Indonesia (a lot of “age advances cautionary” in this one):
And wherever you travel, you’ll be sure to be a hit if you learn the doo-wop version of “Gaudeamus Igitur”:
Vivat Academia! (Long live our school!) Vivant Professores! (Long live our teachers!) That’s you, mom and dad, and your little homeschool academy on this springtime graduation weekend. 😊