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Five Things To Love About "Auld Lang Syne"


Should "Auld Lang Syne" Be Forgot

"Auld Lang Syne" is all but unique among holiday carols in that no one in the whole entire world knows anything but the first five words, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot." Go ahead, try to remember the next verse. Any verse. Even a stray word. Give up? Of course you do. Here’s the opening lyric from a venerable ballad which James Watson first printed in 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.

It was on the tip of your tongue, wasn’t it? The Enthusiast is happy to be of service.

We Twa Hae Run About The Braes And Pou'd The Gowans Fine, Sally

A snippet of dialogue from When Harry Met Sally sums up the ineffable unknowable-ness of it all nicely:

Harry: "My whole life, I don't know what this song means. It means 'Should old acquaintance be forgot.' Does that mean we should forget old acquaintances or does it mean that if we should happen to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?" Sally: "Well, maybe it just means that maybe we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it's about old friends."

Mine’s A Kronenbourg, Mate

Robert Burns based "Auld Lang Syne" on that old ballad after he heard some geezer singing it. As he explained in a letter to the Scots Musical Museum in 1788, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print [or so Burns thought], nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." That, in short, is what separates a poetic genius like Burns from The Enthusiast. As soon as the fellow started spouting poetry, The Enthusiast would have discreetly called for the check and taken his leave; Burns wrote it down and made it part of a masterpiece beloved around the world. Rumors that "Address To A Haggis" was something he learned from a one-man-band-playing busker outside a pub in Edinburgh could not be confirmed as of press time.

O Canada! Beneath Thy Shining Skies May Stalwart Sons And Gentle Maidens Rise!

The Enthusiast has previously expressed his fondness for Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians, and is pleased to report that Guy and the guys established the tradition of playing "Auld Lang Syne" at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day, first breaking out the Burns at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1930.

Cups Of Kindness All ’Round

A perfectly valid translation of the title from the Scots would be "Back In The Day," but you don’t see that in the anthologies, do you?

Back in the day, my Jo,

Back in the day,

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,

Back in the day.

The reader is encouraged to deploy this rendering at midnight on New Year’s Eve this year. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and all that.

Number twenty-eight in a series.

28 December 2020

The Enthusiast ( is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.

1 Comment

Karen Madden
Dec 28, 2020

Another interesting piece. And we'll be singing "auld lang syne" to the Roosevelt Hotel too.

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