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'Auld Lang Syne' by Robert Burns

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Published on Jan 1, 2009

BACKGROUND
"Auld Lang Syne" is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well known in many English-speaking countries and is often sung to celebrate the start of the new year at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day.

The song's (Scots) title may be translated into English literally as "old long since", or more idiomatically, "long long ago" or "days gone by". The phrase "Auld Lang Syne" is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (15701638), Allan Ramsay (1686-1757), and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns.[2] In his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language, Matthew Fitt uses the phrase "In the days of auld lang syne" as the equivalent of "Once upon a time." In Scots syne is pronounced like the English word sign.

My photographs were taken in the last few days of 2008. The moon at the end of the fim was the last moonlight before we entered 2009. This year marks the 250th year since the birth of Robert Burns.


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 dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of 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!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

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

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

Meanings

auld lang syne - times gone by
be - pay for
braes - hills
braid - broad
burn - stream
dine - dinner time
fiere - friend
fit - foot
gowans - daisies
guid-willie waught - goodwill drink
monie - many
morning sun - noon
paidl't - paddled
pint-stowp - pint tankard
pou'd - pulled
twa - two

HISTORY
Robert Burns forwarded a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man". At the time it was fashionable to claim someone else's work. It was "traditional"; therefore, one should take Burns' statement with mild scepticism. Some of the lyrics were indeed "collected" rather than composed by the poet; the ballad "Old Long Syne" printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns' later poem. It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.

There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used both in Scotland and in the rest of the world.

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve very quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (and other Britons) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo is often credited with popularizing the use of the song at New Years celebrations in America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and television, beginning in 1929. The song became his trademark; in addition to his live broadcasts, he recorded the song more than once, first in 1939, and at least once later, on September 29, 1947, in a record issued as a single by Decca Records as catalog #24260.

However, earlier newspaper articles describe revellers on both sides of the Atlantic singing the song to usher in the New Year:

"Holiday Parties at Lenox" (Massachusetts, USA) (1896) The company joined hands in the great music room at midnight and sang Auld Lang Syne as the last stroke of 12 sounded and the new year came in.
"New Year's Eve in London" (London, UK) (1910) Usual Customs Observed by People of All Classes The passing of the old year was celebrated in London much as usual. The Scottish residents gathered outside of St. Paul's Church and sang Auld Lang Syne as the last stroke of 12 sounded from the great bell.

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