Auld Lang Syne, a traditional song - Maxicours

Auld Lang Syne, a traditional song

Objectifs
  • Découvrir un aspect de la thématique d'étude la mise en scène de soi
  • Découvrir un poème et une chanson traditionnelle de l'Écossais Robert Burns
Points clés
  • Auld Lang Syne était, à l'origine, un poème du 18me siècle écrit par Robert Burns. Il fut adapté en chanson.
  • La chanson est entonnée lors d'événements marquant le terme de quelque chose : le Nouvel An, une remise de diplômes, des funérailles... Par conséquent, elle symbolise les nouveaux départs.
  • L'amitié et son souvenir sont au cœur des paroles. Et c'est un ton nostalgique qui domine.
  • Traduite dans de nombreuses langues, chantées par de grands artistes, Auld Lang Syne est l'exemple même d'une chanson à (très grand) succès.

Auld Lang Syne [ˈɔːl(d) lɑŋˈsaɪn] is originally a poem written by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet, in 1788. It then became a traditional folk song. The title of the poem can be translated into standard English by old long since or long long ago and people sing it at the end of the year when the clock strikes midnight as a way of saying goodbye to the past year. By extension, it is also sung when something comes to an end (graduations, departures, funerals...).

1. Meaning of the Lyrics

The first two lines of the poem / song:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind

makes it clear that its author feels concerned with friendship and makes a point of remembering those who leave us, whatever the reason. Even if it is written in the interrogative form, we understand that we should / must not forget them as it is important to keep them alive in our hearts.

And we must not forget either the days gone by, for the lyrics are tinted with nostalgia. Indeed, can’t the lines:

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

be considered as an appropriate toast for the New Year now that the old one is over?

2. In English Speaking Countries

Nowadays, the song is traditionally sung in English-speaking countries on New Year’s Eve. In Scotland where the song was born, people form a great circle, join their hands and sing the song at Hogmanay (Scottish word for New Year’s Eve).
As was said before, Auld Lang Syne can be sung on different occasions but it always symbolizes endings and of course new beginnings. As far as politics is concerned, you can hear it for instance when a new government is elected or when a British colony gets its independence... The English surely sang it when they left Europe.

The song is so popular that lots of artists (Jimy Hendrix, Boney M, Red Hot Chili Peppers...) have sung Auld Lang Syne. You can also hear it at the end of Downtown Abbey’s last episode (season 6).
And of course the song is associated with celebrations and memorials of Robert Burns who composed most of the poem.

3. In Non-english-speaking Countries

As Scots emigrated around the world they took the song with them and consequently Auld Lang Syne has been translated into many different languages and is now sung all over the world, not only in English speaking countries.
It is known in France under the title Ce n’est qu’un au revoir, in the Netherlands it is sung at football matches, in Japan it is played at many school graduation ceremonies... It was even the national anthem of the South Korean exile government, when South Korea was under Japanese rule, from 1919 to 1945 before the melody became the national anthem from 1945 to 1948!
Burns’ poem has crossed the borders and become a hit worldwide.

4. Lyrics (English Version)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Chorus:
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.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

Chorus

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

Chorus

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.

Chorus

5. Conclusion

Few songs can boast about such success but Auld Lang Syne is undeniably one of those. And it is a good thing of course because it shows how deeply attached to friendship and nostalgia people are, all over the world. They praise these values and they do not want to forget their friends nor the good days which have gone by. Even though all good things must come to an end, they must be remembered.

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