A 1788 Poem For Hogmanay


Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner.” http://www.scotland.org/features/hogmanay-top-facts/

As you prepare for tonight’s celebratory events, take a few moments to ponder on the 1788 poem Auld Lang Syne transcribed by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns stated that he wrote the words down after he listened to an old man singing the melody.

If one could picture the scene, the young poet is walking down the street, and he hears an auld voice singing words which touches the heart. He pauses and listens intently as the song continues.

I imagine that Burns engaged the older gentleman in conversation that day. The wealth of knowledge which is stored in an older person is a depository of life on this planet traversing the cosmos.

Of course what he wrote down has the Burns’ influence of the past captured in words. Heritage is essential for a people to remember their origins.

It becomes vital for a family to remember its roots. What you are today can be traced to your progenitors—those shadowy names of the past which gave you your genetic makeup.

If you are hosting a party, make sure the guests bring some token of appreciation for their invitation. In olden days a lump of coal was carried for the fireplace as the wintry chills embraced the cottages.

Scottish Shortbread should always grace the table on the night of the 31st. Prepare enough food for unexpected guests known and unknown.

As the midnight hour approaches, form a circle and join hands. As the seconds tick down to 2016 sing the song and look at each face in the circle.

The circle is equality. As the old year ends, remember we all are brothers and sisters joined by the human genome on the road of life.

If a dark-haired friend or stranger graces your doorstep after midnight, then fortunate be upon you if he or she brings a token of appreciation for the things, hopefully good things, to come in the New Year. Leave the old things and embrace the new realities and possibilities.

Guid New Year!

G. D. Williams © 2015

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Auld Lang Syne: should old lyrics be forgot… (plus seven things you didn’t know)

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.

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.

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

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.


The Tune of Auld Lang Syne (“O Can Ye Labor Lea, Young Man”)

In Burns’s day it was not unusual to pair verses with whatever popular tune provided a good metrical fit. Listen to a bit of this song, for example, and you will recognize a familiar melody. With roots in an old Scottish dance tune, this air was finally paired with the words of “Auld Lang Syne” in 1799. But the tune continued to have a life of its own. In the United States, it served as a popular accompaniment to antislavery poems such as William Lloyd Garrison’s “I am an abolitionist! I glory in the name.” Katharine Lee Bates’s poem “America the Beautiful” was often sung to this tune (and many others) before becoming inextricably linked with a composition by Samuel Ward.


The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne

One of the most interesting facts is that the Auld Lang Syne tune which is sung from Times Square to Tokyo, and has conquered the world, is not the one Robert Burns put the original words to. The older tune though is still sung by traditional singers. It has a more douce, gentle, nostalgic feel to it than the popular tune a mood evoked by the subtle use of the traditional air sung by Mairi Campbell in the first Sex and the City movie. However, whichever tune it is sung to, and wherever in the world it is sung, Auld Lang Syne retains the great emotional resonance of the original traditional song of the Scottish people of those days in the distant past.


Mairi Campbell – Auld Lang Syne [Lyrics]