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Goliardic Verse

Medieval Europe is often referred to as an age of faith. And it certainly was an age of faith. However, if one assumes that the thought and action of these centuries was completely dominated by the Church then perhaps a one-sided view would result. The secular poetry of the Goliards ought to serve as a counter-balance to the age of faith, just as the literature of the Beat generation of the 1950s ought to counter-balance the claim that the 1950s was an age of bland conformity. Goliardic verse developed with the beginning of European universities in the 12th century. It flourished for more than a century but gradually disappeared, largely the result of ecclesiastical suppression, around the 14th century.

The Goliard poets are said to have been the followers of the tribe of Golias. The origin of this group is obscure but it could have been derived from the Old Testament Goliath, a Philistine giant sent to wage war on the children of Israel. The poets themselves were wandering scholars, young men who had usually studied at one of the medieval universities. Unwilling to endure the rigors of university life, these scholars dropped out to join the ranks of academic drifters who could be found in the environs of any European university.

Resources: The Confession of Golias (Paul Halsall) and The Carmina Burana (Auburn).

Let's Away with Study

Let's away with study,
   Folly's sweet.
Treasure all the pleasure
   Of our youth:
Time enough for age
   To think on truth.
So short a day,
And life so quickly hasting,
And in study wasting
   Youth that would be gay!
Leisure and love's pleasure
   Seek the young in heart
Follow the old fashion,
   Down into the street!
Down among the maidens,
   And the dancing feet!
So short a day,
And life so quickly hasting,
And in study wasting
   Youth that would be gay!
'Tis our spring that slipping,
   Winter draweth near,
   Life itself we're losing,
   And this sorry cheer
Dries the blood and cheers the heart,
   Shrivels all delight.
Age and all its crowd of ills
   terrifies our sight.
So short a day,
And life so quickly hasting,
And in study wasting
   Youth that would be gay!
There for the seeing
   Is all loveliness,
White limbs moving
   Light in wantonness.
Gay go the dancers,
   I stand and see,
Gaze, till their glances
   Steal myself from me.
So short a day,
And life so quickly hasting,
And in study wasting
   Youth that would be gay!
Ley us as the gods so,
   'Tis the wiser part:

Gaudeamus Igitur

Let us live, then, and be glad
   While young life's before us!
     After youthful pastime had,
     After old age hard and sad,
   Earth will slumber o'er us.
Where are they who in this world,
   Ere we kept, were keeping?
     Go ye to the gods above;
     Go to hell: inquire thereof:
   They are not; they're sleeping.
Brief is life, and brevity
   Briefly shall be ended:
     Death comes like a whirlwind strong,
     Bears us with his blast along;
   None shall be defended.
Live all girls! A health to you
   Melting maids and beauteous!
     Live the wives and women too,
     Gentle, loving, tender, true,
   Good, industrious, duteous!
Live this university,
   Men that learning nourish;
     Live each member of the same,
     Long live all that bear its name;
   Let them ever flourish!
Perish cares that pule and pine!
   Perish envious blamers!
     Die the Devil, thine and mine!
     Die the starch-necked Philisitine!
   Scoffers and defamers!
Live the commonwealth also,
   And the men that guide it!
     Live our town in strength and health,
     Founders, patrons, by whose wealth
   We are here provided.

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Last Revised -- July 20, 2014
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