New Year’s Songs: Dougie MacLean, “Auld Lang Syne” in Scots and English by Robert Burns
Or at least, close to the original Scots as we can get. There are several versions of this song in Scots, English, colloquial English of the 18th century, colloquial English of the 20th century, and on and on. They tried to take Scots away from the Scots just as they tried to take away Gaelic from the Irish. (Black folks, does that sound familiar?)
Auld Lang Syne is a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well known in many English-speaking (and other) countries and is often sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, its use has also become common at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions.
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”. Consequently “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, is loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.
Burns said that he transcribed the poem from an old man, and eventually sent it along to the Scots Musical Museum, which was responsible for compiling the first volume of Scottish folk music and songs in the late 18th century. By that time, the Scottish people were a conquered people, after revolting several times on behalf of the Stuarts/Stewarts who had been kicked out as kings in England, and against English rule and taxation. The compilation was to set out and continue a cultural, national identity despite being colonized. Of course, the poet put his own stamp—-or words—-to these old lyrics. As for the music, “The tune to which “Auld Lang Syne” is now commonly sung is a pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo.”
The New Year came when I was asleep. I changed my mind about drinking in the New Year; just got too tired. Didn’t hear much cacaphony my way, although there is a bar-restaurant next door and also down the street. Hope you did your thing last night, loudly or softly and especially safely. Happy New Year. It’s 2011. A do-over.
- What Does Auld Lang Syne Mean And Why Do We Sing It On New Years Eve? (larryfire.wordpress.com)
- Should auld acquaintance (and sources) be forgot (smh.com.au)