Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Auld Lang Syne...translating 18th century lyrics

By Prefeitura de Sete Lagoas (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
It's midnight, January 1st, and all over the world folks link arms and sing out the strains of a song written in 1788 by Scotland's Robert Burns. Often the words are mumbled and slurred, not just because of all the champagne toasts but because many (most) of us have no idea what we're really singing, much less what we're singing about. I had a general notion it's about not forgetting old acquaintances but that's about all! It did not become ubiquitous to New Year's until band leader Guy Lombardo struck up the strains just after midnight, January 1, 1929. Oh and, by the by, Great Britain and its dominions did not officially adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752. Before that year, the first day of each new year fell on March 25, the day of the Annunciation called Lady Day (not to be confused with the jazz singer Billie Holiday's nickname)  when tradition has it the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary she was carrying baby Jesus. Since most of Europe celebrated the New Year on January 1, the Brits and their colonists certainly did some extra partying December 31 even if it wasn't "official!"
"Robert Burns" by Alexander Naysmith, 1787

Below are the original lyrics of the entire song in Burns's Scottish dialect followed by an "English" translation.

"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-stowp, 
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 pu'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 guid-willie waught 
For auld lang syne! 
Keith Evans [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (],
 via Wikimedia Commons

Modern Translation:

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,

And days of long ago !

For old long ago, my dear
For old long ago,
We will take a cup of kindness yet

For old long ago.) 

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For old long ago.
We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since old long ago.
And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill draught (of ale)
For old long ago!
And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago!

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now...
and Happy New Year!


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