»  Peter Dawson sings Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne"

 

Auld Lang Syne

by Robert Burns, sung by Peter Dawson to a traditional folk melody

 

•  Background

"Auld Lang Syne" is an odd sort of song to have attained general currency, the words written as they are in a dialect that hardly anyone speaks or understands any more. (It is Lallans, the speech of lowland Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries.) The song has a peculiar power, though, perhaps especially so around midnight after a long evening's drinking and fellowship.

The song's currency is global. Visiting the People's Republic of China in 1982, as that nation was just emerging from the long, xenophobic Mao Tse-tung despotism, I found that there were three Western tunes known to everyone under thirty:  a feeble pop tune named "Red River Valley," the old classic "Clementine" (which, however, Chinese people all believed to be of North Korean origin), and "Auld Lang Syne."

Burns' poem has five verses and a chorus. Dawson sings the first verse, the chorus twice, then the last verse, then the chorus three times.


•  Notes

"Auld lang syne" — "Old long since," i.e. times long past.

"Guid-willie" — "Hearty," or "filled with goodwill."

"Waught" — A deep draught of some potent drink.

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•  Play the song

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•  Lyrics of the song

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And days o' lang syne!

        [Chorus, twice]
        For auld lang syne, my dear,
            For auld lang syne,
        We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
            For auld lang syne!

Then here's a hand, my trusty frien',
    And gie 's a hand o' thine,
And we'll tak' a right guid-willie waught
    For auld lang syne!

        [Chorus, three times]