Horace Nagila ("Hava Nagila" in Latin)

Nancy Llewellyn |
 The Vintage Festival, Lawrence Alma-Tedema.
The Vintage Festival, Lawrence Alma-Tedema.

[Editor’s note: “Hava Nagila” is one of the greatest party songs in the world — and thanks to Nancy Llewellyn, there’s a Latin version of it. It’s not a translation so much as a complete reimagining, using verses from Horace and the Carmina Burana. “I wrote it back in the Early Aughts for performance at a faculty Christmas party at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles,” Llewellyn recalls. “The germ of it was simply the realization, some time before, that the opening line of the Cleopatra Ode fit the tune of Hava Nagila. There’s a kind of whirling delirium to Hava Nagila that seemed to fit the Roman celebrations — if not also the faculty party!” There are competing stories about the composition and origin of the song, which appears in its modern form in 1915 and is usually ascribed to Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, though it is clearly made up of traditional components — so traditional they fit Horatian meters!]

HORACE NAGILA (Idelsohn?/Nathanson? — Kaempfert?) (tr. Llewellyn) [1915]

Nunc est bibendum,

Nunc est saltandum,

Tellus pulsanda

Pede libero!


Nunc depromendum

Merum, cantandum,

Nunc coronanda

Cratera myrto!


Vides ut altæ stent

Nives in montibus —

Mox quoque frontibus

Acri hieme.


Quid sit futurum cras

Fuge scire, nefas.

Quo magis epulas,

Diem carpite!



Carpe diem, carpe flores

Juventutis et amores.

Carpe diem, ne dicamus

Vobis vane “gaudeamus

igitur!” loquimur:

Fugit ætas invida.


Nunc est canendum:

Vinum laudandum.

Arma fuganda:

Pocula cano!


Nunc est ridendum.

Plena plaudandum

Voce tollenda

Laeto Massico!


Tibi perennius

Exigas ære;

Quid juvat mærere

Umbris aridis?


Pone, me mortuo,

caput sub dolio

in thermopolio

pleno Cæcubis!



Bibant omnes sine meta

Tam professor quam poeta.

Potaturi salutamus

Te Lyæum; depellamus

Curas quas, Vita, das.

Nil curandum postero!



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