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Robert Francis: Say hello to 2021 with a cup of kindness from the Robert Burns

🕐 4 min read

You may sing it tonight, but do  you know all the words? Do you know what they mean? I’m talking about Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, which roughly translates to “for old times sake,” but more accurately, “for old times since.”  

According to the Scotland is Now! website (think Visit Fort Worth for Scotland with recipes for haggis), in 1788 the Robert Burns (they often use this for basically the Scottish Shakespeare) sent the poem Auld Lang Syne to the Scots Musical Museum. His letter said it was an ancient song but that he’d been the first to record it on paper, though this has been much disputed over the years. But he was a poet and copyright laws were not what they are now.

According to the website: It has long been a much-loved Scottish tradition to sing the song just before midnight. Everyone stands in a circle holding hands, then at the beginning of the final verse (‘And there’s a hand my trusty friend’) they cross their arms across their bodies so that their left hand is holding the hand of the person on their right, and their right hand holds that of the person on their left. When the song ends, everyone rushes to the middle, still holding hands, and probably giggling.

You probably know the first verse, but the rest of them? Maybe not. Here are all the known verses with an English translation below.  

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

Should old acquaintances be forgotten 
And never be remembered? 
Should old acquaintances be forgotten 
and days long ago.

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

For days long ago, my dear, 
For days long ago 
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet 
For days long ago!

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.

And surely you’ll have your pint tankard 
And surely I’ll have mine. 
And we’ll drink a cup of kindness yet 
For days long ago.


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

We two have run about the hills 
And pulled the daisies fine 
But we’ve wandered many a weary mile 
Since the days long ago.


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

We two have paddled in the stream 
From morning sun till dinner-time 
But the broad seas have roared between us 
Since the days long ago.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

And here’s my hand, my trusty friend, 
And give me your hand too, 
And we will take an excellent good-will drink 
For the days of long ago.


Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.


And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago
And surely youll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago

As to the melody? It’s likely an old Scottish ballad, but it was used by English composer William Shield at the end of the overture to his 1782 opera Rosina. Most likely, both are from a common source, The Miller’s Wedding. It’s a flexible little tune, being used for classical pieces (Beethoven used it in his 12 Scottish Folksongs of 1814), while jazz and blues musicians have fiddled with it to the point it can be barely recognizable. Feel free to try singing America the Beautiful to the tune. It works.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year and take a cup of kindness for the Robert Burns and sing Auld Lang Syne loud enough for Scotland to hear you as we move, ever so mercifully, into 2021.

This Classic Rock station has gathered together some great versions of the song from the Robert Burns, including a punk version, Dan Fogleberg, Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor. I think for moving on from 2020, I’m choosing the punk version:

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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