For Auld Lang Syne, my dears

Susan Sarah here, wishing all of you a Happy New Year! May 2009 be a peaceful and good year for all of New_years_eve us. Already we're a few days into the new year, and on Monday, more normal routines will resume. The year 2009 is already established on our calendars, in our daily horoscopes and our checkbooks … but it’s not too late to revisit New Year’s Eve one last time.

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

This famous and familiar song, known far and wide, is sung every New Year’s Eve at midnight around the world. We may not know all the words, or understand the Scots language of the verses, but we all know the song. And here’s to the Scots – for the song is theirs originally, and its contribution to world culture is indisputable. "Auld Lang Syne" has even been called the most famous song in the world.

Robertburns Robert Burns is credited with writing the familiar verses sometime before December 17, 1788, and it was officially published in 1796. However, he did not pull it out of thin air — he based his version on older traditional Scottish folksongs, some of which had been around since the 16th century or longer. He owned up to penning two verses himself, claiming three as traditional. His publisher thought the older verses were "suspect," and in fact none of his verses were authentically older versions, though some phrasing was indeed traditional.

An early precursor apears in the Bannatyne Manuscript, a collection of Scottish poetry compiled in the 16th century:

About me friendis anew I gatt,
Rycht blythlie on me thay lewch:
Bot now they mak it wondir tewch,
And lattis me stand befoir the yett:
Thairfoir this warld is very frewch,
And auld kyndnes is quyt foryett.

(About me friends anew I had/Right blithely on me they looked/But now they make it wonder tough/And let me stand before the gate/Therefore this world is very frightening/And auld kindness is quite forgot.) 

The poet is not too thrilled with his auld acquaintances – so it's not quite in the same tone, is it.

A 17th century version of an older Scottish folksong, from a sheet of ephemera (basically, a flier), hints at the Burns song to come. “My jo” is a Scots endearment meaning  "my joy" or "my dear”… “old long syne” means a long time ago. The Scots was translated to English in this older version:

On old long syne,
On old long syne, my jo,
On old long syne:
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

A verse by the 17th century poet Ayton also contains elements of the later, greater song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
Is thy kind heart now grown so cold
In that loving breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On old-long-syne?

The following verses, from a song about soldiers returning  from war, were published by the Edinburgh bookseller and poet, Allan Ramsay, in Scots Songs of 1720 and Tea Table Miscellany, 1724:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Tho' they return with scars?
These are the noble hero's lot,
Obtain'd in glorious wars:
Welcome, my Varo, to my breast,
Thy arms about me twine.
And make me once again as blest,
As I was lang syne.

Auld-Lang-Syne-Sheet-Music-Poster Very likely Burns knew some of these sources — and his is, hands down, the more singable version. We're lucky that Burns decided to have a go at it.

As for the music, that was traditional and in use, also. He set his own version to a Scottish country dance melody, a strathspey or Highland reel called “The Miller’s Daughter.” It had been played for at least a century or more as a fiddle tune (many old Scots songs can even be traced to very old harp music) before Burns applied it to his new verses. “The air is but mediocre,” the poet said of it.  Apparently the music would do -– it suited the rhythm of the new verses well, and was catchy enough to stick in the memory.

On 17th December 1788, Burns wrote to a friend, “Is not the Scotch phrase ‘auld lang syne’ exceedingly expressive? There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs…Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.”

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

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

And surely *ye'll be your pint stowp! (*you’ll buy your pint cup)
And surely *I'll be mine!  (*I’ll buy mine)
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear (etc.)

We twa hae run about the *braes,  (*meadows)
And *pou'd the gowans fine;  (*pulled the daisies)
But we've wander'd *mony a weary fit, (*many a weary foot)
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear (etc.)

We twa hae paddl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine
But seas between us *braid hae roar'd (*broad have roared)
Sin' auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear (etc.)

And there's a hand, my trusty *fiere! (*friend)
And *gie's a hand o' thine! (*give us a hand)
And we'll tak a right *gude-willie waught, (*good will draught)
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne (etc.)

By now you may be humming the tune yourself, and it could be in your head all day…that "mediocre air" that Burns attached to his verses has proven unforgettable. 

So enjoy this version, often praised as one of the best renderings of the song, recorded by Dougie MacLean (which can be found on his album of Burns songs, Tribute): Auld Lang Syne by Dougie MacLean

Slainte! (to your health!) to all our acquaintances here at Word Wenches — Happy New Year everyone!

Highland Groom Cover 2 ~Susan Sarah

p.s.  Please remember to look for my new Sarah Gabriel novel, The Highland Groom, in bookstores this week!

"A lovely tale mixed with a bit of fairy magic…Gabriel lifts spirits…as a tender-hearted Highland laird and a sassy lady discover that love is worth any risk." — Romantic Times

"A whimsical, engaging historical romance…THE HIGHLAND GROOM is a winner!"  — Harriet Klausner, 5 stars

* * * Coming to Word Wenches on January 7: A fun interview between The Susans, as Susan Holloway Scott interviews Susan King/Sarah Gabriel about her newest Avon release, THE HIGHLAND GROOM! 

If you'd like to know more about smuggling in Scotland, whiskey making, fairy brews and a looney game of ball played in the Highlands, please join us! All commenters will be automatically entered in a contest to win a signed copy of THG!  * * *

  

25 thoughts on “For Auld Lang Syne, my dears”

  1. I really enjoyed that information on Robert Burns and the song and yes it is in my mind now and probably will be all day but I have always enjoyed the song.
    I am waiting for your book to arrive Sarah and am really looking forward to reading it.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  2. I really enjoyed that information on Robert Burns and the song and yes it is in my mind now and probably will be all day but I have always enjoyed the song.
    I am waiting for your book to arrive Sarah and am really looking forward to reading it.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  3. I really enjoyed that information on Robert Burns and the song and yes it is in my mind now and probably will be all day but I have always enjoyed the song.
    I am waiting for your book to arrive Sarah and am really looking forward to reading it.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  4. I really enjoyed that information on Robert Burns and the song and yes it is in my mind now and probably will be all day but I have always enjoyed the song.
    I am waiting for your book to arrive Sarah and am really looking forward to reading it.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  5. I really enjoyed that information on Robert Burns and the song and yes it is in my mind now and probably will be all day but I have always enjoyed the song.
    I am waiting for your book to arrive Sarah and am really looking forward to reading it.
    Have Fun
    Helen

    Reply
  6. You know, keeping up with you guys like this is hard this week for some reason! I just get a chance to sit down and read one post and think about saying something and poof, the next post is up! LOL
    My Gran used to sing that song to me as a lullaby. That and a variation of “Dance with your Daddy”.

    Reply
  7. You know, keeping up with you guys like this is hard this week for some reason! I just get a chance to sit down and read one post and think about saying something and poof, the next post is up! LOL
    My Gran used to sing that song to me as a lullaby. That and a variation of “Dance with your Daddy”.

    Reply
  8. You know, keeping up with you guys like this is hard this week for some reason! I just get a chance to sit down and read one post and think about saying something and poof, the next post is up! LOL
    My Gran used to sing that song to me as a lullaby. That and a variation of “Dance with your Daddy”.

    Reply
  9. You know, keeping up with you guys like this is hard this week for some reason! I just get a chance to sit down and read one post and think about saying something and poof, the next post is up! LOL
    My Gran used to sing that song to me as a lullaby. That and a variation of “Dance with your Daddy”.

    Reply
  10. You know, keeping up with you guys like this is hard this week for some reason! I just get a chance to sit down and read one post and think about saying something and poof, the next post is up! LOL
    My Gran used to sing that song to me as a lullaby. That and a variation of “Dance with your Daddy”.

    Reply
  11. Lovely post Susan Sarah.
    My paternal great grandfather was a Scot and he had poetry in his blood, so I grew up saying Burns Grace as part of family tradition: ” Some hae meat and canna eat, and some would eat that want it…” etc.
    The Scots blood was renewed by the year I lived in Scotland as a kid. I love Burns’s ode to a pudding.
    “Fair frae yer honest sonsy face, great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race, aboon them all ye tak your place..” etc ). Forgive the spelling, this is from memory. I adore that great chieftan line
    And there’s the one to a mouse that starts something like, wee timorous cow’ring beastie
    Theo, I don’t know if Dance with your Daddy is the song I now have playing in my head (but I’ll blame you anyway 😉 — When the Boat Comes In.
    Who shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
    Who shall have a haddock when the boat comes in?
    Dance to your daddy, Sing to your mummy
    Dance to your daddy, to your mummy sing.
    Talk about ear worms or ear bugs or whatever.

    Reply
  12. Lovely post Susan Sarah.
    My paternal great grandfather was a Scot and he had poetry in his blood, so I grew up saying Burns Grace as part of family tradition: ” Some hae meat and canna eat, and some would eat that want it…” etc.
    The Scots blood was renewed by the year I lived in Scotland as a kid. I love Burns’s ode to a pudding.
    “Fair frae yer honest sonsy face, great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race, aboon them all ye tak your place..” etc ). Forgive the spelling, this is from memory. I adore that great chieftan line
    And there’s the one to a mouse that starts something like, wee timorous cow’ring beastie
    Theo, I don’t know if Dance with your Daddy is the song I now have playing in my head (but I’ll blame you anyway 😉 — When the Boat Comes In.
    Who shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
    Who shall have a haddock when the boat comes in?
    Dance to your daddy, Sing to your mummy
    Dance to your daddy, to your mummy sing.
    Talk about ear worms or ear bugs or whatever.

    Reply
  13. Lovely post Susan Sarah.
    My paternal great grandfather was a Scot and he had poetry in his blood, so I grew up saying Burns Grace as part of family tradition: ” Some hae meat and canna eat, and some would eat that want it…” etc.
    The Scots blood was renewed by the year I lived in Scotland as a kid. I love Burns’s ode to a pudding.
    “Fair frae yer honest sonsy face, great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race, aboon them all ye tak your place..” etc ). Forgive the spelling, this is from memory. I adore that great chieftan line
    And there’s the one to a mouse that starts something like, wee timorous cow’ring beastie
    Theo, I don’t know if Dance with your Daddy is the song I now have playing in my head (but I’ll blame you anyway 😉 — When the Boat Comes In.
    Who shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
    Who shall have a haddock when the boat comes in?
    Dance to your daddy, Sing to your mummy
    Dance to your daddy, to your mummy sing.
    Talk about ear worms or ear bugs or whatever.

    Reply
  14. Lovely post Susan Sarah.
    My paternal great grandfather was a Scot and he had poetry in his blood, so I grew up saying Burns Grace as part of family tradition: ” Some hae meat and canna eat, and some would eat that want it…” etc.
    The Scots blood was renewed by the year I lived in Scotland as a kid. I love Burns’s ode to a pudding.
    “Fair frae yer honest sonsy face, great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race, aboon them all ye tak your place..” etc ). Forgive the spelling, this is from memory. I adore that great chieftan line
    And there’s the one to a mouse that starts something like, wee timorous cow’ring beastie
    Theo, I don’t know if Dance with your Daddy is the song I now have playing in my head (but I’ll blame you anyway 😉 — When the Boat Comes In.
    Who shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
    Who shall have a haddock when the boat comes in?
    Dance to your daddy, Sing to your mummy
    Dance to your daddy, to your mummy sing.
    Talk about ear worms or ear bugs or whatever.

    Reply
  15. Lovely post Susan Sarah.
    My paternal great grandfather was a Scot and he had poetry in his blood, so I grew up saying Burns Grace as part of family tradition: ” Some hae meat and canna eat, and some would eat that want it…” etc.
    The Scots blood was renewed by the year I lived in Scotland as a kid. I love Burns’s ode to a pudding.
    “Fair frae yer honest sonsy face, great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race, aboon them all ye tak your place..” etc ). Forgive the spelling, this is from memory. I adore that great chieftan line
    And there’s the one to a mouse that starts something like, wee timorous cow’ring beastie
    Theo, I don’t know if Dance with your Daddy is the song I now have playing in my head (but I’ll blame you anyway 😉 — When the Boat Comes In.
    Who shall have a fishy on a little dishy,
    Who shall have a haddock when the boat comes in?
    Dance to your daddy, Sing to your mummy
    Dance to your daddy, to your mummy sing.
    Talk about ear worms or ear bugs or whatever.

    Reply
  16. Anne, that would be it! 😀
    But my gran would waltz me around the room singing:
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    My Bonnie Lassie,
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    Yer mommie’s cockle too,
    Ye’ll get a fishie,
    In yer little dishy,
    and a jumpin’ jackie when yer daddy comes home…
    I can still hear her singing that. She passed away when I was about ten.
    Sorry about the ear worm, but that one pops up at the oddest times…

    Reply
  17. Anne, that would be it! 😀
    But my gran would waltz me around the room singing:
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    My Bonnie Lassie,
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    Yer mommie’s cockle too,
    Ye’ll get a fishie,
    In yer little dishy,
    and a jumpin’ jackie when yer daddy comes home…
    I can still hear her singing that. She passed away when I was about ten.
    Sorry about the ear worm, but that one pops up at the oddest times…

    Reply
  18. Anne, that would be it! 😀
    But my gran would waltz me around the room singing:
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    My Bonnie Lassie,
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    Yer mommie’s cockle too,
    Ye’ll get a fishie,
    In yer little dishy,
    and a jumpin’ jackie when yer daddy comes home…
    I can still hear her singing that. She passed away when I was about ten.
    Sorry about the ear worm, but that one pops up at the oddest times…

    Reply
  19. Anne, that would be it! 😀
    But my gran would waltz me around the room singing:
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    My Bonnie Lassie,
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    Yer mommie’s cockle too,
    Ye’ll get a fishie,
    In yer little dishy,
    and a jumpin’ jackie when yer daddy comes home…
    I can still hear her singing that. She passed away when I was about ten.
    Sorry about the ear worm, but that one pops up at the oddest times…

    Reply
  20. Anne, that would be it! 😀
    But my gran would waltz me around the room singing:
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    My Bonnie Lassie,
    Dance wi’ yer mommie,
    Yer mommie’s cockle too,
    Ye’ll get a fishie,
    In yer little dishy,
    and a jumpin’ jackie when yer daddy comes home…
    I can still hear her singing that. She passed away when I was about ten.
    Sorry about the ear worm, but that one pops up at the oddest times…

    Reply

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