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Auld Lang Syne

John Masey Wright and John Rogers' illustration of the poem, c. 1841.
Frank C. Stanley's 1910 performance of Auld Lang Syne. Contains the first and last verse.

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United States Navy Band instrumental performance

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Les Deux Love Orchestra's Classic New Year's Eve Arrangement

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"Auld Lang Syne" ([3] and set to the tune of a traditional folk song (Roud # 6294). It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world, its traditional use being to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Boy Scout youth movement, in many countries, uses it as a close to jamborees and other functions.

The song's Scots title may be translated into standard English as "old long since", or more idiomatically, "long long ago",[4] "days gone by" or "old times". Consequently, "For auld lang syne", as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as "for (the sake of) old times".

The phrase "Auld Lang Syne" is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757), and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns.[5] Matthew Fitt uses the phrase "In the days of auld lang syne" as the equivalent of "Once upon a time..." in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.

Contents

  • History 1
  • Lyrics 2
  • Melody 3
  • Uses 4
    • At New Year 4.1
    • Other than New Year 4.2
      • In the English-speaking world 4.2.1
      • In non-English-speaking countries 4.2.2
    • Use in films 4.3
  • Notable performances 5
    • Notable renditions 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7

History

Robert Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, "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."[6] Some of the lyrics were indeed "collected" rather than composed by the poet; the ballad "Old Long Syne" printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns' later poem,[5] and is almost certainly derived from the same "old song".

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.
CHORUS:
On old long syne my Jo,
On old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On old long syne.

It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.[6]

There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used in Scotland and in the rest of the world.[3][7]

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve very quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (not to mention English, Welsh and Irish people) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

A manuscript of "Auld Lang Syne" is held in the permanent collection of The Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.[8]

Lyrics

The song begins by posing a Thomson’s Select Songs of Scotland was published in 1799 in which the second verse about greeting and toasting was moved to its present position at the end.[9]

Most common use of the song involves only the first verse and the chorus. The last lines of both of these are often sung with the extra words "For the sake of" or "And days of", rather than Burns' simpler lines. This allows one note for each word, rather than the slight melisma required to fit Burns' original words to the melody.

Complete lyrics
Burns’ original Scots verse[4] English translation
(minimalist)
Scots pronunciation guide
(as Scots speakers would sound)
[10]
(Burns' own Ayrshire dialect)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?

CHORUS:
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.

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

CHORUS:
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.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an ald lang syn*?

CHORUS:
Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!
an sheerly al bee myn!
An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

CHORUS

We twa hay rin aboot the braes,
an pood the gowans fyn;
Bit weev wandert monae a weery fet,
sin ald lang syn.

CHORUS

We twa hay pedilt in the burn,
fray mornin sun til dyn;
But seas between us bred hay roard
sin ald lang syn.

CHORUS

An thers a han, my trustee feer!
an gees a han o thyn!
And we’ll tak a richt gude-willie-waucht,
fir ald lang syn.

CHORUS

ʃɪd o̜ːld ə.kwɛn.təns bi fəɾ.ɡot,
ən nɪ.vəɾ brɔxt tɪ məin?
ʃɪd o̜ːld ə.kwɛn.təns bi fəɾ.ɡot,
ən o̜ːl lɑŋ səin?

CHORUS:
fəɾ o̜ːl lɑŋ səin, mɑ dʒo,
fəɾ o̜ːl lɑŋ səin,
wiːl tɑk ə kʌp ə kəin.nəs jɛt,
fəɾ o̜ːl lɑŋ səin.

ən ʃeːr.li jiːl bi juːɾ pəin.stʌup!
ən ʃeːr.li ɑːl bi məin!
ən wiːl tɑk ə kʌp ə kəin.nəs jɛt,
fəɾ o̜ːl lɑŋ səin.

CHORUS

wi two̜̜ː heː rɪn ə.but ðə breːz,
ən puːd ðə ɡʌu.ənz fəin;
bʌt wiːv wɑn.əɾt mʌ.ne ə wiːɾɪ fɪt,
sɪn o̜ːl lɑŋ səin.

CHORUS

wi two̜̜ː heː pe.dlt ɪn ðə bʌɾn,
freː moːɾ.nɪn sɪn tɪl dəin;
bʌt siːz ə.twin ʌs bred heː roːrd
sɪn o̜lː lɑŋ səin.

CHORUS

ən ðeːrz ə ho̜ːn, mɑ trʌs.tɪ fiːɾ!
əŋ ɡiːz ə ho̜ːn ə ðəin!
ən wiːl tak ə rɪxt ɡɪd wʌ.lɪ wo̜ːxt,
fəɾ o̜lː lɑŋ səin.

CHORUS

dine = "dinner time"
ch = voiceless velar fricative, /x/, at the back of the mouth like /k/ but with the mouth partly open like /f/. Similar to "Bach" in German
* syne = "since" or "then" – pronounced like "sign" rather than "zine".

Melody

The tune to which "Auld Lang Syne" is commonly sung is a pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo.[9]

English composer William Shield seems to quote the "Auld Lang Syne" melody briefly at the end of the overture to his opera Rosina, which may be its first recorded use. The contention that Burns borrowed the melody from Shield is for various reasons highly unlikely, although they may very well both have taken it from a common source, possibly a strathspey called The Miller's Wedding or The Miller's Daughter. The problem is that tunes based on the same set of dance steps necessarily have a similar rhythm, and even a superficial resemblance in melodic shape may cause a very strong apparent similarity in the tune as a whole. For instance, Burns' poem Coming Through the Rye is sung to a tune that might also be based on the Miller's Wedding. The origin of the tune of God Save the Queen presents a very similar problem and for just the same reason, as it is also based on a dance measure.[11] (See the note in the William Shield article on this subject.)

In 1855, different words were written for the Auld Lang Syne tune by Albert Laighton and titled, "Song of the Old Folks." This song was included in the tunebook, Father Kemp's Old Folks Concert Tunes published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1860.[12] For many years it was the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing this version in memory of those who had died that year.

Songwriter You're a Grand Old Flag. It is plain from the lyrics that this is deliberate.

John Philip Sousa quotes the melody in the Trio section of his 1924 march "Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company"

In the Sacred Harp choral tradition, an arrangement of it exists under the name "Plenary". The lyrics are a memento mori and begin with the words "Hark! from the tomb a doleful sound". Another Christian arrangement, once popular in India, is "Hail! Sweetest, Dearest Tie That Binds" by Amos Sutton.[13]

The University of Virginia's alma mater ("The Good Old Song") is also sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne".

Uses

At New Year

"Auld Lang Syne" is traditionally sung at the conclusion of New Year gatherings in Scotland and around the world, especially in English-speaking countries.

At Hogmanay in Scotland, it is common practice that everyone joins hands with the person next to them to form a great circle around the dance floor. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa.[14][15] When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands. When the circle is re-established, everyone turns under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined.

In countries other than Scotland the hands are often crossed from the beginning of the song at variance with Scottish custom. The Scottish practice was demonstrated by the Queen at the Millennium Dome celebrations for the year 2000. The English press berated her for not "properly" crossing her arms, unaware that she was correctly following the Scottish tradition.[16][17]

Other than New Year

As well as celebrating the New Year, "Auld Lang Syne" is very widely used to symbolise other "endings/new beginnings" – including farewells, funerals (and other memorials of the dead), graduations, the end of a (non-New Year) party or a Boy Scout gathering, the election of a new government, the last lowering of the Union Jack as a British colony achieves independence and even as a signal that a retail store is about to close for the day. The melody is also widely used for other words, especially hymns, the songs of sporting and other clubs, and even national anthems. In Scotland and other parts of Britain, in particular, it is associated with celebrations and memorials of Robert Burns. The following list of specific uses is far from comprehensive.

In the English-speaking world

In non-English-speaking countries

Auld Lang Syne has been translated into many languages, and the song is widely sung all over the world. The song's pentatonic scale matches scales used in Korea, Japan, India, China and other East Asian countries, which has facilitated its "nationalisation" in the East. The following particular examples mostly detail things that are special or unusual about the use of the song in a particular country.

  • In India and Bangladesh, the melody was the direct inspiration for the popular Bengali folk song [19][20] "Purano shei diner kotha" (Memories of the Good Old Days) composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore,[21] and forms one of the more recognisable tunes in Rabindra Sangeet (Rabindra's Songs), a body of work of 2,230 songs and lyrical poems that form the backbone of Bengali music.
  • In Højskole tradition, and often associated with more rural areas and old traditions. Also, the former Danish rock group Gasolin modernised the melody in 1974 with their pop ballad Stakkels Jim ("Poor Jim").
  • Before 1972, it was the tune for the Gaumii salaam anthem of The Maldives (with the current words).
  • In the Netherlands, the melody is best known as the Dutch football song "Wij houden van Oranje" (We love Orange) performed by André Hazes.
  • In Thailand, the song "Samakkhi Chumnum" ("สามัคคีชุมนุม", "Together in unity"), which is set to the familiar melody, is sung after sporting fixtures, and at the end of Boy Scout jamborees, as well as for the New Year. The Thai lyrics are about the King and national unity, and many Thais are not aware of the song's "Western" origin.
  • In Japan, although the original song is not unknown, people usually associate the melody with Hotaru no Hikari, which sets completely different lyrics to the familiar tune. Hotaru no Hikari is played at some school graduation ceremonies, and the closing of the New Year's Eve show NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen. It is played as a background music in various establishments such as bars, restaurants, or department stores in Japan to let the customers know that the establishment is closing soon.
  • In South Korea, the song is known as Jakpyeol (작별 / Farewell) or (less commonly) as Seokbyeol I Jeong (석별의 정 / The Affection of Farewell). From 1918 to 1943, it was also the melody of Korea's national anthem. The lyrics were the same as today's Korean anthem. Syngman Rhee commissioned Ahn Eak-tai to write the melody currently used for the anthem in 1948.

Use in films

The strong and obvious associations of the song and its melody have made it a common staple for film soundtracks from the very early days of "talking" pictures to the present - hundreds of films and television series' episodes have used it for background, generally but by no means exclusively to evoke the New Year.

Notable performances

Notable renditions

References

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c
  10. ^ Wilson, James (Sir) (1923) The dialect of Robert Burns as spoken in central Ayrshire, Oxford University Press.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Christmas in Scotland: Christmas Around the World, Volume 11". p. 37. World Book, Incorporated, 2001
  15. ^ James Logan (1831). "The Scottish Gaël; Or, Celtic Manners, as Preserved Among the Highlanders: Being an Historical and Descriptive Account of the Inhabitants, Antiquities, and National Peculiarities of Scotland : More Particularly of the Northern, Or Gäelic Parts of the Country, where the Singular Habits of the Aboriginal Celts are Most Tenaciously Retained, Volume 2". p.253. Smith, Elder, 1831
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ National Defence Academy Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Purano Sai Diner katha by Srikanto Acharya Voice of Srikanto Acharya. YouTube user-account efface1. Retrieved 14 March 2013
  22. ^
  23. ^

External links

  • Image of Robert Burns' autograph manuscript
  • Auld Lang Syne score from the Robert Burns website at National Library of Scotland
  • Digitised copy of Auld Lang Syne in James Johnson's Scots Musical Museum, printed between 1787 and 1803, from National Library of Scotland. JPEG, PDF, XML versions.
  • Auld Lang Syne Sheet Music
  • Auld Lang Syne in Russian tool music (Quartet SKAZ Moskow)
  • Scotland on TV Auld Lang Syne video performance with lyrics
  • Article on songs variant perceptions
  • The complete poem by James Watson in the National Library of Scotland
  • Les Deux Love Orchestra Classic New Year's Eve Version (mp3)
Variant lyrics
  • Multiple versions and tunes at The Mudcat Cafe's "Digital Traditions"
  • Song of the Old Folks at American Music Preservation.com
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