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Does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ Break Your Heart or Do You Not Have One?

Does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ break your heart or do you not have one? This is a question that occurs to me, around this time, every year.

As a boy, growing up in England – yes! Once upon a time, it really did exist! – New Year’s Eve broke my heart every time I heard the song ‘Auld Lang Syne’. I could never understand why all these drunk adults would cheerfully sing the saddest song I had ever heard; it was as though they couldn’t understand the words they were singing.

Looking around the room open mouthed, I couldn’t understand how anyone could hear that song and not cry.

As a nine year old boy I concluded that the world was populated either by soulless, loveless bastards or by people who didn’t really understand words. Now after over half a century, I know that both these lamentable propositions are true.

Robert Burns spoke an ancient form of Northumbrian English that in 1788 some called “Scottish.” Perhaps the most appealing thing about this strange language was that the English couldn’t understand it.

The title of the song, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ actually means ‘For old long since’ or more commonly ‘For days gone by’.

‘brae’ means the ‘brow of a hill and pint-stoup means ‘pint-pot’

The resulting confection, Burns sent to the Scots Musical Museum to have it preserved for posterity and thus, some 182 years later, irreversibly traumatised an over-sensitive and annoyingly precocious English boy.

I offer you a copy below from Rampant Scotland (a frightening thought!)

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 jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll be your pint stoup,
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!


We twa hae ran about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn
Frae morning sun til 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 gude willie waught
For auld lang syne!


Meaning of unusual words:
Auld lang syne = Former days and friends
jo = dear
stoup = tankard
gowans = daisies
braid = broad
Gude willie waught = friendly draught


And if that doesn’t break your heart, you don’t need an editor,  you may need to see a priest.

Remember, keep writing and we look forward to reading your work.

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