It Started with a Poem: Sentimental Scots and “Auld Lang Syne”

I blame my sentimental side on my Dad’s Scottish ancestors. After all, it was a Scot – the legendary writer Robert Burns, below – who wrote the poem, “Auld Lang Syne,” first published in 1787 and arguably the most sentimental words ever put on paper.

Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne means “Old Long Ago” in an ancient Scottish dialect. I don’t know about you, but I can’t sing (or even hear) “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve without a tear coming to my eye. In Scotland, where no doubt it is sung with more gusto than anywhere else in the world, they get a double dose of the song, since apparently it is sung not only to usher in the New Year but again on January 25th, known as Burns Night.

“Auld Lang Syne” is an exquisite example of how words (and words put to music) express the human experience. Who among us does not feel regret and longing about love and friendship, and the passage of time? And who does not wonder what might have been, while fearing what will be? And on what day of the year could those words put to music have a greater impact than December 31?

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

Such a bittersweet sentiment! Although it’s a bit overwhelming, it is worth embracing. While New Year’s leads us to somberly assess the previous year, it is also a time of faith, love – and hope.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Blessings to all in 2015!

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Filed under People, The Writing Life

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