Auld Lang Syne Lyrics: What Does It Mean, and Why Do We Sing It?
New Year 2011: Auld Lang Syne Lyrcis: What does Auld Lang Syne Mean? Why Do We Sing Auld Lang Syne?
We sing "Auld Lang Syne" each New Year's Eve, but what does it mean? An why do we sing it?
Emily Hancock of the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service ("Auld Lang Syne: Traditional Song, but No One Knows Why or Meaning," Dec. 22, 1995) said that these Scots words mean literally "old long since," in the sense of "days gone by."
Scottish poet Robert Burns penned the words in 1798 and set them to a Scottish tune that was first published in 1711 (nobody knows who wrote the melody, how old it really is or whence it came).
"Auld Lang Syne's" association with New Year's Eve began in the 20th century; bandleader Guy Lombardo began the tradition on a radio broadcast of 1929.
New Year's Eve notwithstanding, Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil, in "The Story of English" wrote that "Auld Lang Syne" has long been "the international anthem of nostalgic reunion." See the Beaufort County (South Carolina) Library's vodcast for the full lyrics and explanations of the Scots words.
The Scots language of the Lowland Scots people began as the variety of English brought by invading Angles in the seventh century A.D. (the Gaelic of the Highlanders is a Celtic language, while English is Germanic).
Robert Burns set the Scots tongue of his day to wondrous verse, and in 1983 William Lorimer published a translation of the New Testament that blended twelve dialects of Scots.
The result was a work The Story of English said, that strates the range and vigor of Scots prose."
The pruif ee pudden's ee the preein o't (Scots for "The proof of the pudding is in the tasting," one of many proverbs at www.scots-online.org/grammar/provribs.htm), so here are two samples from the Lorimer "New Testament in Scots":
"Than, whan ye pray, ye maunna be like the hypocrítes, at likes weill tae staund an pray i the meetin-houses an at the gate-heids, sae at fowk may see them.
Atweill, I tell ye, they hae gotten aa the rewaird they'r tae get. Na, whan ye pray, gang intil your benmaist chaumer an tak the door wi ye, an syne pray til your Faither, at bides whaur nane can see him; an your Faither, at sees aathing at is dune in hidlins, will gíe ye your rewaird.
"Rame-ramena awà, whan ye pray, like the haithen, at trews they will be hairkent for their tung-rake. Binna ye like them, for your Faither kens what ye hae need o, afore iver ye ax him. Pray ye, than, this gate:
Our Faither in heiven,
Hallowt be thy name;
Thy Kíngdom come;
Thy will be dune
On the yird, as in heiven.
Gíe us our breid for this incomin day;
Forgíe us the wrangs we hae wrocht;
As we hae forgíen the wrangs we hae dree'd;
An sey-us-na sairlie, but sauf us frae the Ill Ane."
Seein hou monie there wis o them, he spealed the brae, an whan he hed sitten doun, an his disciples hed gethert about him, he set tae the teachin, an this is what he said tae them:
"Hou happie the puir at is humble afore God,
for theirs is the Kíngdom o heiven!
Hou happie the dowff an dowie,
for they will be comfortit!
Hou happie the douce and cannie,
for they will faa the yird!
Hou happie them at yaups an thrists for richteousness,
for they will get their sairin!
Hou happie the mercifu,
for they will win mercie!
Hou happie the clean o hairt,
for they will see God!
Hou happie the redders o strow an strife,
for they will be caa'd the childer o God!
Hou happie them at hes dree'd misgydin for richteousness' sake,
for theirs is the Kíngdom o Heiven!
Hou happie ye, whan they tash an misgyde ye an say aathing ill o ye, líein on ye, for my sake! Blythe be ye an mirkie, for gryte is the rewaird bidin ye in heiven; it was een sae they misgydit the Prophets afore ye."
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