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Auld Lang Syne: Lyrics and History of the New Year's Tradition

Auld Lang Syne: Most know some of the words, few know all of the words, others hum along. Here is a look at the poem's history, along with the lyrics.

Happy New Year from Patch! (Photo: Patch Archive)
Happy New Year from Patch! (Photo: Patch Archive)

By Lindsey Hickman

Auld Lang Syne has long been a New Year's tradition from New York to Tokyo, following the countdown and first kiss at midnight. Most know some of the words, few know all of the words, others hum along. Here is a brief glimpse at the poem's history, along with the lyrics.

Written by Scottish poet, Robert Burns in 1788, the title translates literally to "old long since," meaning, "days gone by" or " for old times sake."

Burns, who was said to have compiled the song lyrics from a ballad called, "Old Long Syne" by James Watson in 1711, sent a copy of the song to the Scots Musical Museum with a note saying, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." 

Auld Lang Syne was inspired by lyrics of "Old Long Syne" by James Watson, 1711

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.

CHORUS:On Old long syne my Jo,
On Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
On Old long syne.

Burns expanded the ballad's nostalgic call for remembering good-times and old friends, keeping the opening rhetorical question, should old acquaintance be forgot?

The song quickly became a Scottish New Year's tradition, and has long been associated with New Year's celebrations, but it took a century to become the ritual known in the United States today. 

Canadian band leader, Guy Lombardo, sang the hymn at midnight Jan. 1, 1929 in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City and is credited with associating the song with the American tradition. Lombardo's orchestra played the song every New Years Eve, in live broadcast from New York, until 1976, and their recording has been played each year as part of the Times Square "ball drop."

The words to Auld Lang Syne

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

Chorus

For auld lang syne, my jo,
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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

Long, Long Ago

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

Chorus

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.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we've wandered manys the weary foot
Since long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.

Chorus

And there's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we'll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

Chorus

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