Although Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet, is credited with creating the poem that became the song “Auld Lang Syne,” the truth is that he was just the first person to write down the words. Auld Lang Syne had been an oral story, in an old Scottish dialect, that everyone knew but now one really knew why they knew it. It was one of those poems passed around from generation to generation, in a language that fewer and fewer people understood as the times changed.

Similar poems existed in Scotland long before Robert Burns wrote down the lyrics. Other poets, including Sir Robert Anton (1711) and Allan Ramsay (1720), mentioned this poem in their own works. But since Burns was the first to write the words down in an official document, he gets all the credit. It wasn’t until 1799 that the words and music that we are familiar with today appeared together in a compilation published by George Thomson. Eventually, after so many reprints, the song became synonymous with Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s). Then, thanks to the famous Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo, it became popular in North America as well. Lombardo’s band, The Royal Canadians, played the song on a popular radio show on New Year’s Eve in 1929, and it became a huge hit, and I’m sure that no one would be more surprised than Robert Burns. Historians still have all of Burns’ notes and have found multiple Scottish and English translations. Below I’ve posted the English translation (I can barely understand the Scottish!), and luckily for us it’s in the public domain.

Auld Lang Syne (English Version)

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

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
And picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
Since auld lang syne.

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

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
For auld lang syne.

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