Sangstories
Stories of Scottish Songs

Tales of Scottish traditional
and newer songs 
sung by Sangschule 
of Linlithgow

Auld Lang Syne

Robert Burns (1759-1796)   
Tune: Can Ye Labour Lea
First published in The Scots Musical Museum, 1796

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 fit
Sin auld lang syne

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

And there'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

Words:
Auld lang syne
: long ago
Braid: broad
Braes: hill-sides
Dine: dinner
Fiere: companion
Fit: foot
Gowans: daisies
Guid-willie waught: goodwill drink, hearty drink
Hae: have
Jo: sweetheart, friend
Paidled: paddled
Pint stowp: tankard containing a Scots pint
Pu’d : pulled
Ye’ll be your pint stowp: you’ll pay for yours

Although this is probably the poet’s best-known song, he himself never acknowledged writing it. In a letter to the publisher George Thomson, (Sep.1793) he claimed that it had ‘never been in print, nor even in manuscript’ until he ‘ took it down from an old man’s singing.’ He then quoted our verse 1, chorus and verse 3 “We twa hae run about the braes”.

 In a letter to his literary friend Mrs Dunlop, he quotes all the verses we know, with only small differences, and comments “Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired Poet who composed this glorious Fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it, than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.”

But The Canongate Burns says that he often pretended that his own songs were traditional works.  There is a story that Burns confessed to Johnson, the editor of The Scots Musical Museum that only three verses of the song were old.
 
Scholar and Burns editor David Daiches wrote that there could be no doubt that "the song as we have it is essentially Burns’s though he never claimed authorship, and there is undoubtedly something preserved from an earlier version."

 A song called “Auld Lang Syne” by Allan Ramsay in the much earlier Tea-table Miscellany has no resemblance to the one we know, apart from the first line ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot’ and the tag line to each verse eg ‘As we did lang syne’

There are two tunes, one in accepted contemporary use, and an older one, which Sangschule uses, found in The Scots Musical Museum. For discussion of the names and dates of the tunes see the online Burns Encyclopaedia, originally a reference book by Maurice Lindsay at www.robertburns.org/encyclopedia 

“Auld Lang Syne” was not published during Burns’s lifetime.

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