Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (2024)

AuldLang Syne

Version 1
Compare: Auld Lang Syne - Version 2

The Popular Rendition
Verses and chorus, traditional, ca. 16th Century

1. 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 !

2. 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 sine. Chorus

Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (2)


1. Should old acquaintances be forgotten
and never remembered
Should old acquaintance be forgotten
For old long ago

For old long ago, my dear
For old long ago
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago

2. And there is a hand my trusted friend
And give me a hand of yours
And we will take of a good drink/toast
For old long ago. Chorus

Sheet Music from Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), p. 15.

Sheet Music from J. P. McCaskey, ed., Franklin Square Song Collection, No. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881.

SeeA Garritan Community Christmas for an MP3:
Auld Lang Syne, Frank Pido

Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (5)

William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

The Scottish "Auld Lang Syne" can be translated as"old long ago"- which is also a lovely way of putting it. For mostpeople, New Year’s Eve just isn't complete without the singing of "AuldLang Syne. " Thanks to Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, who firstplayed it on their New Year’s Eve radio broadcast in 1929, the song is NewYear’s Eve, with the special memories it evokes for each individual. The wordswere adapted in the late 18th century by Scottish poet Robert Burns from traditional Scottishsongs, but the composer of the melody is unknown. For decades, people haveagreed that it makes a bonny way to close the "old long ago" ofChristmastime and usher in the hopes and resolutions of a brand-new year.

Background of Auld Lang Syne

Even in Scotland, hardly a gathering sings it correctly,without some members of the party introducing the spurious line: 'We'll meetagain some ither nicht' for the line which Burns actually wrote: 'And we'll tak'a cup o' kindness yet'. To say nothing of adding 'the days of' to the line 'Forauld lang syne'!

On 17th December 1788, Burns said in a letter toMrs Frances Anna Dunlop:

'Your meeting which you so well describe with your old schoolfellow and friend was truly interesting. Out upon the ways of the world! They spoil these 'social offsprings of the hear'. Two veterans of the 'men of the world' would have met with little more heart-workings than two old hacks worn out on the road. Apropos, 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. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet... 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.'

The song 'on the other sheet' was Burns's first version of'Auld Lang Syne'.

With slight changes, the poet sent a copy of the song toJames Johnson, who delayed publishing it, possibly because the air to which itwent had already appeared in the Museum with words by Allan Ramsay,beginning: 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot.' But Johnson changed his mindand put the song into the fifth volume of the Museum, which appeared in1796, about six months after Burns's death; there is evidence in Burns's lettersto suggest he had seen in proof stage. The tune to which it was matched in the Museumfirst appeared in Playford's Original Scotch Tunes, 1700, thoughdoubtless it was then at least half a century old, for it was the tune to whichthe antecedents of Burns's poem were written.

The 'exceedingly expressive' germphrase has been taced backto an anonymous ballad in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568, 'Auld Kyndnesforyett'. The last of the eight stanzas goes:

"They wald me hals with hude and hatt,
Quhyle I wes rich and had anewch,
About me friends anew I gatt,
Rycht blythlie on me they lewch;
But 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."

From that anonymous old poet's complaint of man'singratitude, we move on to a slightly later ballad, probably by the courtly poetSir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) who accompanied James VI and I to England, thoughsometimes attributed on little evidence to Francis Sempill of Beltrees (d.1683?). First published in Watson's Choice Collection of Scots Poems,1711, the anthology upon which the whole of the 18th Century ScotsRevival was based, Ayton's poem begins:

"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?

Chronologically, the next reference is a prose one: to ascurrilous work, Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence Display'd published inLondon in 1694. The author quotes a sermon: 'Did you ever hear tell of a goodGod and a cappet [pettish] prophet, Sirs? The good God said, Jonah, now billyJonah, wilt thou go to Ninevah, for Auld lang syne? [old kindness].'

Henley and Henderson refer to a street song, dating from theend of the 17th Century, which had the refrain:

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

This, attributed to Francis Sempill, appeared in Watson's ChoiceCollection, but clearly derives from Ayton.

The song which Allan Ramsay wrote to the tune, printed withhis words in the Museum, was published in Ramsay’s Scots Songs,1720. The first eight lines establish the connexion, and at the same timedemonstrate that the poem represents Ramsay at his least inspired:

"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."

At least two other political ballads of the period existwhich exhibit turns of phrase, the echo of which sounds in Burns's version: andin 'The Old Minister's Song', 'Tullochgorum' Skinner came nearer than most:

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Or friendship e'er grow cauld?
Should we nae tighter draw the knot
Aye as we're growing auld?
How comes it, then, my worthy friend,
Wha used to be sae kin',
We dinna for ilk ither spier
As we did lang syne?"

Was Burns, in fact, aware of these older poems? Almostcertainly he was. As noted above, Burns was acquainted with the works of hisScottish predecessors – Barbour and Blind Harry, Dunbar, Henrysoln and Lyndsay,the Makars of the 14th to the 16th Century, and theprincipals in the 18th Century Scots Revival, Allan Ramsay and RobertFergusson.

Robert H. Cromek – who in 1808 published Reliques ofBurns, consisting of Original Letters, Poems and Critical Observations onScottish Songs -- alleged evidence that the two best stanzas were by Burns.William Stenhouse, the editor of an early 19th Century reissue of theMuseum, stated that Burns admitted to Johnson that only three stanzaswere old, the other two being written by himself. George Thomson was certainlysuspicious of the supposed old originals. In September 1793, Burns forwardedThomson the third known manuscript of the song, with some minor changes, themost important of which is the substitution of 'my dear' for 'my jo' in thechorus. In the accompanying letter Burns remarked: 'One song more, and I havedone, 'Auld lang syne'. The air is but mediocre; but the following song - theold song of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even inmanuscript, until I took it down from an old man's singing - is enough torecommend any air.'

Some time later, after Thomson had discovered from StephenClarke that Johnson had a copy of 'Auld Lang Syne' and had noticed that the airwas already in the Museum to Allan Ramsay's words, he must have writtento Burns, who replied in November 1794: 'The two songs you saw in Clarke's areneither of them worth your attention. The words of 'Auld lang syne are good, butthe music is an old air, the rudiments of the modern tune of that name. Theother tune you may hear as a common Scots country dance.'

What was 'the other tune'? Probably the tune which we knowtoday, and to which Thomson published the words in Scottish Airs, 1799,claiming them to be 'From an old MS. In the editor's possession', which was atleast slightly more honest.

The first strain of the familiar tune appears in 'The Duke ofBuccleugh's Tune', in Appollo's Banquet, 1690, though this may be justanother interesting example of melodic coincidence. Its 'common Scots countrydance' version appeared first in Bremner's Scots Reels, 1759, under thetitle 'The Miller's Wedding' and in Cumming's Strathspeys, 1780, as wellas in McGlashan's Strathspey Reels, also published in 1780, in which itwas called 'The Miller's Daugher'. Its commonness is attested by the fact thatit appeared in at least a further five similar publications within the nextthirty years; was used twice to different words in the Museum; and wasemployed in a slightly pruned version in William Shield's ballad-opera Rosinain 1783. It is also closely related to the melodies of 'O Can you labor lea' and'Coming thro' the rye' which appear to derive basically from the same strathspeyas 'Auld Lang Syne'.


"The Life of Robert Burns" by Rev. George Gilfillan(1886) [Accessed January 9, 2002]

"The Official Robert Burns Website" for an article on Robert Burnsand an article on Auld Lang Syne [Accessed January 9, 2002]

The Douglas Clark Home Page and an article on Auld Lang Syne[Accessed January 9, 2002; unavailable as of December 13, 2003]

Scottish Music Website for articles on RobertBurns and Auld Lang Syne [Accessed January 9, 2002; site closed 8 Januarty 2004]

The contents of this web site appear to be mirrored at The Silicon Glen, Robert Burns and Auld Lang Syne

The World Burns Cluband for an article on RobertBurns plus two on Auld Lang Syne: So What's 'Auld Lang Syne' and What About Auld Lang Syne [Accessed January 9, 2002]

TheBard of Scotland [Accessed January 9, 2002]

The Works ofRobert Burns [Accessed January 9, 2002]

The Bard:Your Complete Guide [Accessed January 9, 2002]

Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (6)

This auld song's been sung, well, lang syne

Everybody sings it as the old year tums to new -- there'seven a polka version,
but few people know more than a handful of words



Published in The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, December 30,1999

Depending on where you celebrate New Year's Eve, thetumtables will spin Prince's "1990," Barry Manilow's "It's JustAnother Nov Year's Eve" or even, heaven forbid, Will Smith's "Will2K."

But at midnight, in almost every nightclub and home, on everytelevision and radio, the song will be the same: "Auld Lang Syne.'

"It just fits the moment' says Tyrone Traher, who hasstudied the origins of the song, "It's traditional. Kind of like how'Amazing Grace' is always played at a funeral."

Except that most people can make it past the first line of"Amazing Grace."

"Yes,' Traher agrees with a chuckle. "No one seemsto know all the words."

He pauses for a moment. "Come to think of it, I'vehonestly never read all the words to the song."

So there you have it: a Gaelic-riddled song with anoldfashioned melody that many Americans sing as "should auld acquaintancebe forgot ...' and then trail off into a hum. Our national New Year's anthem.How'd it happen? Glad you asked.

"Auld Lang Syne" means "old long since"and is adapted from a traditional Scottish folk tune. The basic words date to atleast 1711, though some scholars say it was menrioned as early as 1677. Scottishpoet Robert Bums is credited with first publishing it, in the mid-1790s, and,researchers say, smoothing out some of the verses and changing the melody.

The song recalls the days gone by and says we will alwaysremember them. "Should auld acquaintance be forgot?." it asks. No, thechorus replies: 'For auld lang syne (for times gone by), we'll talc (drink) acup o' kindness yet ."

As for the other lyrics, Verse 2 refers to friends atseparate places (or pubs), drinking to each other. Verses 3 and 4 talk about along journey to find that friend, running "about the braes"(hillsides), and "pou'd the gowans fine" (pulled the pretty daisies),and getting tired doing so "wand’d mony a weary fit," or "aweary foot," dependlng on the version). It continues with wading streams("paidI'd in the bum"), from dusk until dinnertime, but even then,broad ("braid") seas roar between them.

But finally, in the last verse, the friemts find each other.And they "talc a right guid-willie waught' ("drink a goodwill drink')for times gone by.

It wasn't Bums, however, who turned this misty-eyed tune intoa New Year's tradition. That would be Guy Lombardo, who first heard the song inhis youth from Scottish immigrants in his hometown of London, Ontario.

Traher, who organizes the Royal Canadian Big Band MusicFestival and tribute to Lombardo every year in London, says the song stuck inthe musician's head. When Lombardo formed an orchestra with his brother in 1919,they arranged the piece and made it part of their repertoire.

"It seemed appropriate for New Year's -- a time to lookback," Traher says. So when the Lombardo brothers got the chance toheadline a New Year's Eve party in New York in 1929, they played "Auld LangSyne" near midnight, then counteted down.

For nearly 50 years after that, Guy Lombardo and hisorchestra played New Year's Eve radio and, later, television spedals from theWaldorf Astoria

"Prior to Dick Clark, there was Guy Lombardo,"Traher says, and though Lombardo died in 1977, "Auld Lang Syne" becamea staple.

Now there are pop versions of the song, disco remixes, even acontroversial British single of the Lord's Prayer sung to the tune of "AuldLang Syne" topping the charts in the United Kingdom this month. GeorgeReynoso, an independent music retailer in El Paso, Texas, sells a CD through hisWeb site ( that includes country, polka and danceversions of the standard.

"The Lombardo version is sleepy, dreamy; it definitelyneeded an update," Reynoso says.

He adds that he got the idea from "Corrido de Auld I.angSyne",. a hard-to-find Mexi.can dance version of the song.

"It's ingrained in the consciousness," Reynoso saysof the appeal of"Auld Iang Syne."

And even though people aren't sure what it means, it soundssad and soothing at once, he says.

"It's a song about loss, but also about love -- a hopethat you'll see the same people you love next year."


"Well, that's the way I think about it," Reynososays. "But no, I don't know the words."

Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (7)

Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (8)

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Auld Lang Syne - Version 1 (2024)
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