Bright College Years

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Bright College Years is one of the traditional songs of Yale University, and the university's unofficial but undisputed alma mater. It was written to the tune of Die Wacht am Rhein in 1881 by Henry Durand.[1]

In some old songbooks and publications, the song can be found under the name "Dear Old Yale", possibly a reference to the closing words of another popular Yale song, Neath the Elms: "Jolly, jolly are the days neath the elms of dear old Yale!"[citation needed]

During World War I and shortly afterward, Bright College Years was nearly banned for its German heritage. Yale men stationed in Paris sang it to the tune of La Marseillaise.[1]


Written by H.S. Durand 1881

Music composed by Karl Wilhelm; (SATB) arr. Robert Bonds ‘71

Bright College years, with pleasure rife,

The shortest, gladdest years of life;

How swiftly are ye gliding by!

Oh, why doth time so quickly fly?

The seasons come, the seasons go,

The earth is green or white with snow,

But time and change shall naught avail

To break the friendships formed at Yale.

In after years, should troubles rise

To cloud the blue of sunny skies,

How bright will seem, through mem’ry’s haze

Those happy, golden, bygone days!

Oh, let us strive that ever we

May let these words our watch-cry be,

Where’er upon life’s sea we sail:

“For God, for Country and for Yale!”[2]


The Yale Glee Club, custodians of the Yale song tradition through publication of Songs of Yale, traditionally closes every concert with the alma mater. At the end of The Game the Yale Precision Marching Band performs the song while the senior members of the band sing along. Various member parties in the Yale Political Union include "Bright College Years" in their toasting sessions and celebrations. In addition, the song is sung at the end of Class Day (held the day before University Commencement annually). White handkerchiefs are raised in the air and waved on the last line.

Traditionally, only the first and third verses are sung, and the latest publication of Songs of Yale[3] includes the lyrics of the second verse only in the appendix.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Bright College Years: Inside the American Campus Today is a book by Anne Matthews published in 1997 describing modern day academia.
  • Bright College Years is a 1971 documentary filmed by Peter Rosen describing the reactions of people at Yale to President Nixon's bombing of Cambodia and the arrest of several Black Panther leaders in New Haven.
  • "Bright College Days" is the name of a satirical alma mater written by Harvard's Tom Lehrer. It contains several Yale references.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Old Yale: The Birth, Near-Demise, and Comeback of "Bright College Years"". Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  2. ^ "Traditional Yale Songs". Yale University. Archived from the original on 2016-02-21. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
  3. ^ Songs of Yale. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Glee Club, 2006.

External links[edit]