Music Monday #1 – ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Did you sing, play, or hear ‘Auld Lang Syne’ over the past few days?

I didn’t, unless you want to count inner-hearing.  I have thought about it because a friend mentioned a Robert Burns specialist who spoke on the radio about the song.  She complained that she could not make out the content of his commentary due to his thick Scottish brogue I looked online for the interview but did not locate it.   Instead I ended looking at these two sources: a Lifestyle article from The Washington Post, &  the Wikipedia entry for Auld Lang Syne.

What I learned was that Burns denied having written the lyrics.  He said, “I took it down from an old man.”  Scholars suggest that Burns compiled the lyrics from a number of sources.  The tune is a traditional pentatonic Scottish folk tune (Roud Folk Song Index  # 6294) that originally might have been a “sprightly dance” which would have been played at a much faster tempo.  I can imagine it sped up and ‘jiggy’.

The Wiki entry for ‘Auld Lang Syne’ gives several translations of the lyrics.  The ones that strike me as familiar are from the minimalist English translation:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

I’d like to close today’s post on a literary rather than musical note.  I recently read ‘Rules of Civility’ by Amor Towles which is set mainly in1938 NYC.  It makes mention of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ being sung by a pudgy male undergrad in Washington Square and also refers to the song as being old-fashioned way back then.

4 thoughts on “Music Monday #1 – ‘Auld Lang Syne’

  1. I always thought “auld lang syne” means “for old times’ sake” or something similar. I’m English by the way and even though the Scots are my close neighbour their old language is as foreign as Japanese to me!!

    1. Yes, you are absolutely correct on the meaning. Wiki says “The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as “old long since”, or more idiomatically, “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”. ” I just decided not to go into that in my post.

      I love your comment that the old Scots (a Germanic language variety, not Scottish Gaelic) used by Burns would be as foreign as Japanese to you.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  2. I love that song! That’s one of the holiday songs that always gets me weepy. Laura Ingalls Wilder used it in the closing of one of her later books and it was quite poignant.

  3. Nothing feels right if I don’t hear that song at the turn of the New Year. 🙂

    What you wrote about Burns saying he “took it down from an old man” … I didn’t know that fact, but it fits so perfectly. I can almost see the old guy at the pub, nearly falling asleep into his pint, with Robbie Burns scribing notes on a bar napkin.

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