I’m surprised no-one has posted the lyrics for the song until now. Written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, this song is usually heard at the stroke of New Year’s. And with no further ado:

Auld Lang Syne

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

2. 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.

3. We twa hae mn about the braes
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne.

4. We two hae paidled i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.

5. And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o' thine;
And we'll tak' a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.
    Yet how true a poet is he! And the poet, too, of poor men, of hodden-gray, and the Guernsey-coat, and the blouse. He has given voice to all the experiences of common life; he has endeared the farmhouse and cottage, patches and poverty, beans and barley; ale, the poor man's wine; hardship, the fear of debt, the dear society of weans and wife, of brothers and sisters, proud of each other, knowing so few, and finding amends for want and obscurity in books and thought. What a love of nature! And, shall I say it?, of middle-class nature. Not great, like Goethe, in the stars, or like Byron, on the ocean, or Moore, in the luxurious East, but in the homely landscape which the poor see around them; bleak leagues of pasture and stubble, ice, and sleet, and rain, and snow-choked brooks; birds, hares, fieldmice, thistles, and heather, which he daily knew. How many "Bonny Doons," and "John Anderson my Joes," and "Auld Lang Synes," all around the earth, have his verses been applied to! And his love songs still woo and melt the youths and maids; the farm work, the country holiday, the fishing cobble, are still his debtors to-day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson on Robert Burns: A Tribute (1859)

Whenever we meet a Holy Willie or fall in love with our Bonie Jean, Robert Burns (1759-1796) comes alive to us through the centuries. He leaps out of the page and lives on in all the best of the lines he wrote. Writing from the the heart using the universal language of love, compassion and friendship, Auld Lang Syne has become the traditional song among people through out the world for bidding farewell to the old year and hailing the new. It is the evidence of the success with which Burns was able to present the theme of passing time through a context of remembered friendship. By mixing memory with desire he cleverly creates a bittersweet moment. How relevant it has become to the poignancy of at once saying goodbye to old and bringing in the new. Through a long and convoluted evolution Burns was able to capitalize on this idea where the poem and the song has become one of the great expressions of the tragic ambiguity of man's relation to time. All this in his folk idiom that rings pure as the birth of the New Year to which it is chorused.

Though he never claimed authorship, he wrote that what he had created was indeed preserved from earlier versions. In a letter dated December 17th 1788, Burns described to a friend by the name of Mrs Dunlop:

    'Your meeting which you so well describe with your old schoolfellow and friend was truly interesting. Out upon the ways of the world! They spoil these 'social offsprings of the hear'. Two veterans of the 'men of the world' would have met with little more heart-workings than two old hacks worn out on the road. Apropos, is not the Scotch phrase Auld lang syne exceedingly expressive? There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet... 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.'
Enclosed in his letter to her on another sheet were the words to Burns' first version of Auld Lang Syne.

With a few alterations, the poet sent a copy of the song to a publisher named Johnson, who delayed publishing it, perhaps as scholars speculate, it was because the air to which it went had already appeared in print with words by another, beginning: 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot.'

In September 1793, Burns forwarded the publisher Johnson a third copy of his manuscript of the song with some minor changes. In the his letter to him Burns commented:

    'One song more, and I have done, 'Auld lang syne'. The air is but mediocre; but the following song - the 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's singing - is enough to recommend any air.'
And yet to another friend around the same time he relates:
    'Light be the turf,' he says, '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 half-a-dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.'.....'Apropos, is not the Scotch phrase Auld Lang syne exceedingly expressive? This old song and tune has often thrilled through my soul.'
Fortunately Mr. Johnson reconsidered his decision and published the song in the fifth volume of the Museum, appearing about six months after Burns' death.

By the end of the 1700's the tune or Scottish Air, as it is called, was discovered to be derived from a common Scots country dance. The melody so common that it had been presented in no less that nine different airs ranging over a period ninety years. While it is also closely related to the melodies of 'O Can you labor lea' and 'Coming thro' the rye' which appear to be derived basically from the same strathspey (or Scottish dance), as 'Auld Lang Syne'. While there were many ballads, sermons, street songs and even a couple of political ballads, all dating from the mid fifteen hundreds, there is little doubt that Burns was aware of these older poems.

Did you know that the word syne is pronounced just as it is written and not zyne? While millions of people will be singing this poem on the New Year's Eve, here is a small glossary in hopes some of us might get the words right! With a few phrases and words translated, the good nature and fellowship of this drinking song shine through:

  • auld;old
  • lang;long
  • syne;since
  • auld lang syne ; days of long ago
  • pint stowp ; tankard
  • be your pint-stowp: pay for your pint-cup
  • burn: stream
  • dine: dinner
  • braid: broad
  • frere: friend
  • twa hae rin: two have run
  • braes: hillsides
  • pou'd ; pulled
  • gowans ; daisies
  • mony ; many
  • fitt ; foot
  • paidl'd ; waded
  • dine; dinner-time
  • willie-waught ; draught
  • gude-willie waught: a big swig
Here's a translation from one of the many on line and one I liked best:

Old Long Since

tr. William Curran

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind;
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days of old lang syne.
    For old lang syne, my dear,
    For old lang syne,
    We will take a cup of kindness yet,
    For old lang syne,
We two have run about the hills,
And pulled the daisies fine.
We've have wandered many a weary foot,
Since old lang syne.


We two have paddled in the burn (Stream),

From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us broad have roared,
Since old lang syne.


And here's a hand my trusty friend,

And put your hand in mine.
We'll take a right good willie-waught (Drink),
For old lang syne.


And surely you'll lift up your glass,

For surely I'll lift mine,
And we'll drink a cup of kindness yet,
For old lang syne.


The song crept into America's consciousness as early as the Civil War when the melody was sung by soldiers and played on piano by amateur musicians. Then in 1928 a dance band called the Royal Canadians led by a young man by the name of Guy Lombardo gave New Year's Eve its enduring theme song. As a teen Lombardo played in a band that worked the heavily Scottish environs of London, Ontario, his hometown. It was traditional in those communities to end an evening with 'Auld Lang Syne.' He tells the story of how he came to use this signature song. Because one of his radio sponsors was Robert Burns Panatella Cigars, "and seeing that Robert Burns wrote 'Auld Lang Syne,'" Lombardo explained, "we sort of incorporated that into our program." Lombardo died in November 1977, by the time he had rang out his '76 gala, he had logged forty eight New Year's Eve broadcasts -- first on CBS radio and then, from 1956, on its sister TV network.

Succeeding the brilliant success of his poetry in his twenties, Robert Burns devoted the last ten years of his tragically short life to collecting, writing and re-writing many songs of his homeland. It was his deepest love affair, and if we are to believe his words to Mrs. Dunlop then it stands to reason that indeed the forces of Nature have honoured his request, 'the turf must by lying lightly upon the breast' of an unknown poet of whose intermediary version not a trace can be found and no matter the origins of Auld Lang Syne, it was Robert Burns' magic that turned it into one of the most beloved and popular songs ever written. It's traditional to cross arms left with right and right with left in a cozy hug of friendship at the third stanza. So while you're rockin' in the New Year taking hands and making acquaintance with humankind around the world; raise a song at the stroke of midnight and just bear a thought and 'tak a cup 'o kindness yet' for the genius who created it without whom New Year's Eve just would not be the same.

Till we meet again. -Guy Lombardo (1902-1977)

Selected Sources:

Analysis of Burns Poems:

The Burns Encyclopedia:

Next week to be 25th New Year's Eve without Guy Lombardo:
www.post-gazette.com/ Blair, Bob:

Many thanks to Gritchka's explaining to me about the pronouciation of syne.

CST Approved.

Auld` lang syne" (?).

A Scottish phrase used in recalling recollections of times long since past.

"The days of auld lang syne."


© Webster 1913.

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