Famous Sayings: #43 — ‘Auld Lang Syne’

January 1, 2017

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

Happy New Year 2017, Auld Land Syne

Every time we ring in the New Year, we might hear people sing this song or at least hear the instrumental version on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

If you’ve seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart, you would have heard this song.

The song is ubiquitous.

But I will admit, I never knew what was being sung. So of course, I didn’t know the history and couldn’t quite tell you the meaning of the song, although I might have been able to guess the latter.

Where Did the Song Originate?

The true origin of the poem is unknown. But the song might be based on older works.

Scottish Poet Robert Burns is often credited with the song. However, Robert Burns refused to take credit for “Auld Lang Syne,” and always established that he came across an old song by hearing it. He only edited it (Prentice).

Burns said he first heard the song Auld Lang Syne from an old man who was singing it. Burns said the song had never been transcribed before so he needed to “mend” it.

Burns introduced the song to Mrs. Agnes Dunlop and said, “There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians!”

Five years later Burns introduced the text to James Johnson, who was compiling old Scottish songs, and said, “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”

The compilation of old Scottish songs was called The Scottish Musical Museum (Vincent). The book would be published in 1796 (Schneider).

If we delve deeper, “Auld Lang Syne” is very close to “Old Long Syne,” an early ballad that was first printed by James Watson in 1711. “Early ballads” were those passed on by word of mouth, so the original words may have been lost along the way (“Broadside”).

Deeper: Poet Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) was credited with an earlier poem with similar lines to the poem as we now know it.

Here is what I found via the Winston-Salem Journal:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never though upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?

Is they kind heart now grown so cold
In that loving breast of thine,
That though canst never once reflect
On old-long-syne?

How Did the Song Gain Popularity?

The song gained popularity through a combination of the tune and chance.

Burns did not like the tune that he originally heard with the words. It might have been something similar to what can be found in a scene from the 2008 Sex in the City Movie.

Burns’ publisher, George Thompson, first printed the song with a traditional Scottish melody that we hear today (“Raise”).

Conductor Guy Lombardo inadvertently popularized Auld Lang Syne in 1929. His band used the song to transition from one radio program to the next during a live performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. The song was played just after midnight (Ng).

Now, What Does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ Mean?

According to The Official Gateway to Scotland, the rough translation for “Auld lang syne” is “for old times’ sake.” The song is about preserving old friendships and reflecting upon what happened in the past year.

From SAM’s answers, it says that the phrase “Auld Lang Syne” means “old long since” in Scottish dialect. It also translates to “the good old days,” according to The People’s Almanac.

In short, the song reminds us to think of old friends and to cherish those relationships. When we move from year to year, many of us do so with friends and family. So it makes the song highly relevant.

By the Way, What Are the Lyrics?

Here you go.

Courtesy of The Official Gateway to Scotland:

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-stowp!
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 pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
Frae mornin’ 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 guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.


Here’s a translation via the same website:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.


And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago

And surely youll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.


We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.


We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.


And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.


Works Cited

“Broadside Balled Entitled ‘Old Long Syne.’” The Word on the Street. National Library of Scotland. Web. Retrieved 1 Jn 2016. Web. <http://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/broadside.cfm/id/14548>.

Clodfelter, Tim. “Ask SAM: Just what does ‘auld lang syne’ really mean?” Winston-Salem Journal. 30 Dec 2016. Web. <http://www.journalnow.com/news/ask_sam/ask-sam-just-what-does-auld-lang-syne-really-mean/article_5f7e5804-d2ad-57ce-b1e8-0b912df662e1.html>.

“The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne.” The Official Gateway to Scotland. Last Updated 18 Nov 2016. Web. <http://www.scotland.org/features/the-history-and-words-of-auld-lang-syne>.

Ng, Christina. “‘Auld Lang Syne’: What Does it Mean Again?” ABC News (via Good Morning America). 31 Dec 2012. Web. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/12/auld-lang-syne-what-does-it-mean-again/>.

Prentice, Claire. “‘Auld Lang Syne’: New Year’s song has a convoluted history.” The Washington Post.  30 Dec 2016. Web. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/auld-lang-syne-new-years-song-has-a-convoluted-history/2011/12/21/gIQAZgYCRP_story.html>.

“Raise a glass to the song ‘Auld Lang Syne.’” CBS News. 1 Jan 2017. Web. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/raise-a-glass-to-the-song-auld-lang-syne/>.

Schneider, Caitlin. “A Brief History of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’” Mental Floss. 31 Dec 2016. Web. Retrieved 1 Jan 2017. <http://mentalfloss.com/article/73078/brief-history-auld-lang-syne>.

Vincent, Alice. “Auld Lang Syne: should old lyrics be forgot… what the song means, and eight things you didn’t know about it.” The Telegraph. 31 Dec 2016. Web. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/what-to-listen-to/auld-lang-syne-new-years-eve-song-facts/>.

Summary: Many of us have heard “Auld Lang Syne” every time we ring in the New Year, but do most of us know what is being sung? Read on to find out.


2 thoughts on “Famous Sayings: #43 — ‘Auld Lang Syne’

  1. Thanks for researching the words and history of that song. I had always gotten the jist of it, but never took the time to fully research it. There is something about the melody and poetry combined together that gives the song a bitter sweet sound that has me conjuring up sweet memories of the past. It’s a perfect song for the end of each year. I’ve always loved it. Thanks for the history and the info! 👍I appreciate learning the actual facts. Now I like it even more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked reading about it.

      I didn’t even know the words “Auld Lang Syne” were being sung until I did a simple Google Search. But since New Year’s 2017 Fell on a Sunday, I thought, “Why not look into the history of the song?”

      The song does have a very interesting history. I was surprised to see how it was being used nowadays and that it originated in Scotland.

      Liked by 1 person

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