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“De Brevitate Vitae” (Latin for “On the Shortness of Life”), more commonly known as “Gaudeamus Igitur” (“So Let Us Rejoice”) or just “Gaudeamus”, is a popular academic commercium song in many Western countries, mainly sung or performed at university graduation ceremonies. Despite its use as a formal graduation hymn, it is a jocular, light-hearted composition that pokes fun at university life. The song is thought to originate in a Latin manuscript from 1287. It is in the tradition of carpe diem (“seize the day”) with its exhortations to enjoy life. It was known as a beer-drinking song in many early universities and is the official song of many schools, colleges, universities, institutions, student societies and is the official anthem of the International University Sports Federation.
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The lyrics reflect an endorsement of the bacchanalian mayhem of student life while simultaneously retaining the grim knowledge that one day we will all die. The song contains humorous and ironic references to sex and death, and many versions have appeared following efforts to bowdlerise this song for performance in public ceremonies. In private, students will typically sing ribald words. The song is sometimes known by its opening words, “Gaudeamus igitur” or simply “Gaudeamus”. In the UK, it is sometimes affectionately known as “The Gaudie”. The centuries of use have given rise to numerous slightly different versions.
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