Feature

Dec 2012

The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne

In sentimental American movies, Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne is sung by crowds at the big New Year finale . . . in Bangkok and Beijing it is so ubiquitous as a song of togetherness and sad farewells, they presume it must be an old Thai or Chinese folk song . . . while in France it is the song which eases the pain of parting with the hope that we will all see each other again Oui, nous nous reverrons, mes frères, ce n'est qu'un au revoir. Auld Lang Syne is one of Scotland's gifts to the world, recalling the love and kindness of days gone by, but in the communion of taking our neighbours' hands, it also gives us a sense of belonging and fellowship to take into the future.

It is one of the many folk songs from the great Lowland Scots tradition collected and fashioned by the pen of one of the world's greatest songwriters. Burns devoted the last years of his life to the song tradition, and often a mere fragment from some old ballad was transformed by his alchemy into a memorable love song or Scots poem. With Auld Lang Syne, though, the brilliance was already there; this is the Bard's first mention of it in a letter to Mrs Dunlop in 1788:

"... Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven inspired Poet who composed this glorious fragment."

One of the most interesting facts is that the Auld Lang Syne tune which is sung from Times Square to Tokyo, and has conquered the world, is not the one Robert Burns put the original words to. The older tune though is still sung by traditional singers. It has a more douce, gentle, nostalgic feel to it than the popular tune a mood evoked by the subtle use of the traditional air sung by Mairi Campbell in the first Sex and the City movie. However, whichever tune it is sung to, and wherever in the world it is sung, Auld Lang Syne retains the great emotional resonance of the original traditional song of the Scottish people of those days in the distant past. Lets leave the last word to Burns himself...

"... is not the Scots phrase, 'Auld Lang Syne', exceedingly expressive - there is an old song and tune which has often thrilled thro' my soul".

The words to Auld Lang Syne

Fancy singing along yourself? Here are the verses, and a translation of the words to Auld Lang Syne:

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

Chorus

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne,

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn,
Frae mornin' sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

Chorus

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus

Long, Long Ago

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.

Chorus

And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago

And surely youll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we've wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.

Chorus

And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

Chorus

Meet Robert Burns - facts and information

Robert Burns Country

Hogmanay.net