Every single year, even the worst of singers – let’s say, for example, my wife – is likely to warble a few words of the exact same tune at the exact same moment. I speak, of course, of “Auld Lang Syne,” and I’ve recently learned how little we know about something we all know.
For starters, it’s fair to say there are VERY few among us who really “know” Auld Lang Syne.” There are four stanzas beond the familiar one that we sort of half-understand the words to. Which is sort of a shame, because its lyrics are incredibly easy to remember. Assuming you find a tongue that sounds like a mash-up between the English, Elvish and Klingon languages “incredibly easy.”
Here are some of the lyrics that even Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadiens never bothered to perplex us with over the course of dozens of televised New Year’s Eve telecasts from New York’s Waldorf Astoria:
“We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,/
frae morning sun till dine;/
But seas between us braid hae roar’d/
sin auld lang syne.”
Try wrapping your mouth around those lines after a New Year’s Eve toddy or two. Fortunately, the song ends with a classic, unforgettable line – “And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught/for auld lang syne” – which is the sort of thing you can pronounce pretty much any way you want because if you’ve sung that far, you’ll be the only one singing and not kissing someone.
Having mentioned the immortal Guy Lombardo, there are other celebrities who warrant mention when discussing “Auld Lang Syne.”
First and foremost, there’s the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who is generally credited as the writer of “Auld Lang Syne.” There’s a picture online of Burns’ hand-written manuscript of the poem wherein he refers to the melody as “but a mediocre air.” He’d feel differently about it if he heard, say, my wife sing it; he’d probably start referring to it as “but a punishingly atonal air.” But I digress.