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The truth about Auld Lang Syne

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Update from the Telegraph: London on New Year's Eve

The Wall Street Journal tries to discover the true origins of Auld Lang Syne:

'The archaic sound of the Lowland Scots phrases—we twa hae run about the braes/ and pu't the gowans fine—gives it the ring of something both ancient and familiar. . .[But] to the millions who sing it on the midnight passage from one year to the next, the words of Auld Lang Syne remain as cryptic as the melody is ubiquitous.

In 1793, Burns sent the text of Auld Lang Syne to Thomson, presenting it as "the old Song of the olden times, & which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down from an old man singing." . . .It is probable that Burns rewrote a fragment he had heard on his travels. The wistful remembrance of friends and lovers past maps well onto Burns's biography: the childhood friends he left behind; the stormy relationship with a certain Clorinda, which ended with her move to Jamaica; the death of his Highland Mary.

But to claim authorship of the poem would have lessened its authenticity in the eyes of Burns, who relished his reputation as a heaven-taught ploughman. . .[on] an aesthetic and a political mission'. . .

The haunting stratspey dance tune (stratspey is a slow Scottish dance) carries the scent of gowans - wild daisies, the memory of dear friends faraway, and the happiness of the friend raising the cup of kindness with you now. Whatever its origins, Auld Lang Syne is simultaneously melancholy and joyous, just like New Year's Eve, just like our lives.

May 2012 be a very good year for you.

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