Friday, December 31, 2010


An Old Year's Dying ~ A New Year's Birth
New Year's Eve Without Auld Lang Syne
Would Be Unthinkable



Robert Burns is credited by many with penning Auld Lang Syne, but he did not credit himself.
["Is not the Scotch phrase," Burns writes to a Mrs. Dunlop in 1788, "Auld lang syne, exceedingly expressive? There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul: 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." "The following song," says the poet, when he communicated it to George Thomson, "an old song of tho olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down, from an old man's singing, is enough to recommend any air." These are strong words, but there can be no doubt that, save for a line or two, we owe the song to no other minstrel than "minstrel Burns."]

"Robert Burns lived in the latter half of the 18th century. He was born of sturdy peasant stock and toiled in the fields. He loved the old melodies, verses and ballads of his native land and as he ploughed would sing them over to himself.

He transformed many inferior verses into real poetry, wrote entirely new words to many of the old melodies and composed other beautiful poems apart from music. He often wrote with deep feeling on the simplest subjects. Many of his poems are among the world's priceless gems of song." St. Nicholas, Volume 39, Issue 1. Mary Mapes Dodge, Louisa May Alcott, John Preston True. 1912.

Whether his own or repurposed from a song of olden times, Auld Lang Syne will forever be associated with Robert Burns. But it is Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians that are credited with making it the New Year's Eve anthem. Lombardo played it in California in 1929 on the first nationwide radio broadcast of New Year's Eve. This took place just six weeks after the disastrous stock market crash.

In 1935, Lombardo's "sweetest music this side of heaven" moved from Hollywood's Cocoanut Grove to New York's Times Square for New Year's Eve. From then to today, it is the official song heard around the world at midnight, January 1st.


Yes, the Scots speak English, but here are a few translations of parts of the song - Auld lang syne means old times, and has been considered more expressive than the English phrase. These lines, And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp, And surely I'll be mine; - I'll pay for my drink and you for yours; or, "We'll go Dutch." Gowam means wild daisies; burn, to wade or walk in the water; fiere, friend/comrade; a right guid willie-waught, a friendly drink.

And Now

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

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

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pu't the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot,

Sin' auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl't i' the burn,

Frae mornin' sun till dine:
But seas between us braid hae roar'd,

Sin' auld lang syne.

And here'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 syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,

And surely I'll be mine;
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For 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!

Translation From Wkipedia

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 us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

༒*¨*•.HAPPY NEW YEAR.•*¨*༒


Mcckay, Charles. The Illustrated Book Of Scottish Songs. London: Houlston and Wright, 1867.
Ward, Thomas Humphry. The English Poets; Selections With Critical Introductions. New York: Macmillan Co., 1894-1903.
Shafto, Justin. Stories Of Famous Songs. London : J.C. Nimmo ; Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott Company, 1898.
Anonymous. Orange Coast Magazine. "12 Days." 1983. pg. 270


Blogger Andrea said...

Have a Blessed Happy New Year!!

December 31, 2010 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

Whilst researching in Wisconsin this past fall, I met a 2nd cousin 1x removed, who was adamant that her grandmother and my great grand aunt was a cousin of Rabbie Burns. Time wise, I doubt that the cousin relationship is accurate, but will be interested to see if I can prove a relationship with my longtime hero, Rabbie Burns.

January 1, 2011 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Janice said...


A lovely, well-written article as usual. I've wondered about the history of the song, and exactly when it caught on in the United States. Understandable now!


January 2, 2011 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Oh, Joan, I want to be related to Rabbie Burns. With the way I rhyme, I need the genes.

Janice - Thank you! I love the line that when translated reads, "We'll go Dutch." Such a Scot.


January 2, 2011 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

January 2, 2011 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Martin - Loved it! Thank you - fM

January 2, 2011 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Linda Gartz said...

Loved reading all the words to a song we all think we know-- but really don't. Reminds me how much singing people did in the past, (my grandparents know 100s of songs). Happy New Year from a relatively new blogger!

January 9, 2011 at 2:34 PM  

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