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The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne




With the New Year having been brought in by any number of ways, its highly probably that you will have sung a familiar favourite at least once. That song is Auld Lang Syne and is a song written by Robert Burns in the 1780s, and today has become an anthem sung the world over at New Year.


In 1788 Robert Burns sent the poem ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to the Scots Musical Museum, indicating that it was an ancient song but that he’d been the first to record it on paper. However, an earlier ballad by James Watson, named ‘Old Long Syne’, dates as far back as 1711, and use of the title phrase can be found in poems from as early as the 17th century, specifically works by Robert Ayton and Allan Ramsay.

The tune is thought to stem from a traditional folk song, collected in the Roud Folk Song Index . It is loosely based on a pentatonic (five-note) scale, and has been borrowed and quoted by countless composers and writers. Beethoven even wrote an arrangement of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as part of his 12 Scottish Folksongs from 1814. One of the more unusual and most famous uses of the tune came in 1999 when Cliff Richard used the melody for his single ‘Millennium Prayer’, in which he sang the words of The Lord’s Prayer over the familiar tune.

The phrase ‘auld lang syne’ roughly translates as ‘for old times’ sake’, and the song is all about preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year. It is sung all over the world, evoking a sense of belonging, fellowship, and nostalgia.

It has long been a much-loved Scottish tradition to sing the song just before midnight. Everyone stands in a circle holding hands, then at the beginning of the final verse (‘And there’s a hand my trusty friend’) they cross their arms across their bodies so that their left hand is holding the hand of the person on their right, and their right hand holds that of the person on their left. When the song ends, everyone rushes to the middle, still holding hands, and probably giggling.

Apart from New Year’s Eve, the song is also often sung at Burns Night celebrations, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, at passing out parades for the Royal Navy, and for many other military bodies across the world.

Get yourself prepared for Hogmanay, (the last day of the year in Scottish) by learning the lyrics, then you can participate in this heartwarming Hogmanay tradition too. Most people only know the first verse and the chorus, so don’t be put off by the poem’s length.

Auld Lang Syne

First verse: 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.

Second verse: And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup! and surely I’ll be mine! And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Chorus Third verse: We twa hae run about the braes, and pou’d the gowans fine; But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, sin’ auld lang syne.

Chorus

Fourth verse: 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.

Chorus

Fifth verse: And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie’s a hand o’ thine! And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne.



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elocal Digital Edition – January 2024 (#273)

elocal Digital Edition
January 2024 (#273)


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