‘Auld Lang Syne’ by Robert Burns: New Year’s song lyrics

As the sun sets here in southeastern Wisconsin, I thought I’d share a recording of the New Year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne” (often searched for as “Old Lang Syne” — perhaps because “Same Old Lang Syne” was one of Dan Fogelberg’s greatest hits).

My favorite version of “Auld Lang Syne” is the one by Scotland’s own
Dougie MacLean found on his album Tribute.

I love it because Dougie MacLean sings the words to Robert Burns‘ original Scottish poem so clearly and plainly. His guitar is simple, almost like a music box. Along with the easy tempo, this really brings out the wistfulness and sentimentality of the verses.

Here is the Robert Burns poem, from 1788:

Auld Lang Syne

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

We twa hae rin about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit
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.

In case you’re not too clear about the Scottish (I sure am not), Scotland.org — “The official gateway to Scotland” — has helpfully posted their English translation of the words. They render it as “Long Long Ago.” I have also heard “Old Long Since,” but I prefer to think of it as “Once Upon a Time,” as the Wikipedia entry about the song offers.

Wikipedia also notes that Robert Burns himself claimed to have taken the words down from “an old song, of the olden times,” sung by “an old man” — but perhaps he was winking as he claimed this.

The tune is that of an old Scottish folk song (#6294 in the Roud Folksong Index), and singing it on New Year’s Eve quickly became a Scots custom that spread to the other British Isles.

The tradition of playing “Auld Lang Syne” for the New Year was popularized by Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo, who chose it because his New Year’s broadcast was sponsored by Robert Burns cigars, according to the BBC documentary, How Auld Lang Syne Took Over the World.

I hope you enjoy the track. May you and those you love enjoy a happy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year.