The Student Song

It has been a week of celebrations: first our national holiday and then all the graduations from the Swedish equivalent to high school. Swedes are notoriously bad at celebrating the nation; we haven´t really had a national holiday until a few years ago, and to get it we lost Whit Monday, which some are still bitter about. It´s not that we don´t like our country, really, we think we live in the most splendid country in the world. We just don´t like to point out the obvious, and anyway, it might sound boastful, which it is not a virtue in this country to be. Also, the national anthem, which refers to the days when Sweden was “great” in the 17th Century and fought, killed, pillaged and generally were being bastards down on the continent, can feel a bit embarrassing. There are still countries where they refer to prison bars as “Swedish curtains”. Quite a lot of people feel we should change the lyrics. Others say we should be more like the Norwegians, who go crazy with joy on their national holiday, forgetting perhaps that the Norwegians celebrate being liberated from Swedish oppression…

Balloons and streamers in the colours of the Swedish flag are more used for high school graduations which is the coming of age celebration in a young person´s life, and I bet more Swedes know the words to Studentsången (= the Student Song) than to the national anthem. The Student Song was composed by Prince Gustaf to words written by Herman Sätherberg, and it proved surprisingly difficult to find a good performance of it on youtube (the most outstanding was by a Norwegian choir and I just couldn´t post that after writing the above). This is from Walpurgis Night celebrations at Umeå university a few years ago. The students singing are wearing the traditional student hat, which in the old days (when people wouldn´t go out the door without wearing a hat) were worn every day by young men studying at university.

Sjung om studentens lyckliga dar / låtom oss fröjdas i ungdomens vår / än klappar hjärtat med friska slag / och den ljusnande framtid är vår / inga stormar än i våra sinnen bo / hoppet är vår vän och vi dess löften tro / när vi knyta förbund i den lund / där de härliga lagrarna gro / där de härliga lagrarna gro, hurra! 

Sing about the student´s happy days / let us be joyful in the spring of youth / still our hearts have healthy beats / and the bright future is ours / no storms dwell in our minds / hope is our friend and we trust its promises / when we make our alliance in the grove / where the wonderful laurels grow / where the wonderful laurels grow, hurray! (my quick&dirty translation)


7 thoughts on “The Student Song”

  1. National sensibilities do differ, don’t they! Today happens to be Flag Day, yes a day set aside specifically to honor the 1777 adoption of the flag, and the week containing it is National Flag Week. We just passed Memorial Day (to honor war dead), and we have July 4th (our birthday celebration) coming up. We have a day to honor presidents, a day to honor veterans…. We could give lessons on national pride, loudly celebrated. Sometimes I think a more subdued approach would be more appropriate.

    Graduations here are smaller affairs and generally observed as individual school/family/community celebrations. There’s no particular song, with many schools having their own school song. Academic robes and mortarboards are worn for the ceremony, and many graduates get class rings that differ depending on where they graduated.

    I like your song. It’s more cheerful and forward thinking than I remember our school song being.

    1. I actually graduated from Ottumwa High in 1984, not sure why they allowed me to do this – for the experience perhaps. It´s not like I had a full grade sheet. I borrowed a robe and hat, but never bought a ring, it was a bit expensive to me at the time, but I have since thought it would have been fun to have. It was a huge thing in red and white, which were the school colours.
      In Sweden, the traditional dress for graduation is a black suit for the boys and a white dress for the girls. For some reason I rebelled against this and wore white trousers and a pinkish jacket. I remember wanting a black dress with jacket, but my mother wouldn´t have it. It would have been much more elegant, I still think, instead of the awkward compromise we made. Not sure now why it was so important to me, but it was.
      I missed 4th of July celebrations in the US, I came after and went before, which is a shame. That would have been something, I´m sure!

      1. We could pick rings at different price points, so some were more affordable. The robes at least have the benefit of not calling out differences, and no one has to buy one lol. I’d have wanted a black suit, too.

        4th of July means fireworks and cookouts. You can’t go wrong with that 🙂

          1. Fireworks are actually illegal in many cities here, but the authorities turn a blind eye on July 4th and New Year’s Eve. People set up tents just outside the city limits to sell them. I’d sign on to your plan to expand fireworks 🙂

          2. Many people would like to outlaw them here, too, particularly dog owners. There is always someone objecting, and with good reasons, too… [sigh]

          3. They are considered a fire hazard here, and kids (and adults, too) end up with burns and other injuries from ignorance in handling them. It’s a case of making law because of exceptional cases.

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