Who wrote Auld Lang Syne?
Scottish poet Robert Burns is credited with writing it in 1788. Burn's claimed he wrote down the words as dictated to him by an old Scotsman who had told him it had been passed down over generations by word of mouth.
The music we sing the words to today is an old Scots folk melody selected by song editor George Thompson, a few years after Burns' death. The music Burns intended for it was a bit slower and more melancholy. (See the second video below for a performance of this version.)
What does the title mean?
A literal translation of the Scots title into English would be "old long since. " The line "for auld lang syne" can be loosely translated as "for old times' sake."
What is the song about?
The song starts with a rhetorical question about whether we should forget about old acquaintances, followed by advice to, instead, remember and reminisce over 'a cup of kindness.’
How did it get from Scotland to all over the world?
The short answer is immigration. It originally became a custom to sing the song on Hogmanay (Scots for New Years Eve), which then spread around the British Isles. As people from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales emigrated around the world, the tradition of singing it at New Years went with them.
What are the lyrics?
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.
And surely you'll buy your pint cup! and surely I'll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine; But we've wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o' thine! And we'll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
- For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
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.
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.
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 gude-willie waught, for auld lang syne.
The most universally famous song associated with Robert Burns, the poet first sent 'Auld Lang Syne' to his friend and Patron Mrs Frances Dunlop (1730-1815) in 1788. In this letter the poet praised 'Auld Lang Syne' as an old song.
Likewise, in a letter to George Thomson dated September 1793, the poet claimed that he collected the song by noting it down from an old man's singing. It was eventually published in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum in 1796.
It is important to remember, however, that Burns frequently amended and improved old songs that he collected prior to their publication. Therefore, it remains likely that Burns played a significant part in shaping this particular version of the song.
'Auld Lang Syne' is an extremely nostalgic and sincere expression of friendship. It is for this reason that people all over the world sing this song at social gatherings and most famously on Hogmanay as they reflect on times past and welcome the New Year.
This video is the original tune and all the words - so seldom sung....
Burns' mastery here encompasses all the emotion and feeling of old friends meeting up after growing up together then spending years apart.