SHOULD OLD TIMES BE FORGOTTEN? A CELEBRATION OF ROBERT BURNS.

Portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth, 1787, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, better known as Rabbie Burns, who died on 21 July 1796 at the age of 37.

He is celebrated all over the world and especially today, January 25th, on his birthday.  We have Burns Night when people come together to recite his poetry and sing his songs.

He’s probably best known for having written Auld Lang Syne, the song we often sing in the UK on New Year’s Eve  – Hogmanay in Scotland.  

Auld Lang Syne means “for the sake of old times”.  The song asks the question, “Is it right that old times be forgotten?”  Here Burns is talking about friendship but one could equally well relate this to the times of the pandemic we are living through now.  

Most of us only know the first eight lines and the chorus of Auld Lang Syne but here it is in full followed by a translation in English (courtesy of Wikipedia) for all of us who are unable to follow the Scottish dialect!

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

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

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin days of auld lang syne

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn
Frae morning sun till dine
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin days of auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For days of auld lang syne

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp
And surely I’ll be mine
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught
For auld lang syne

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

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

 What is Burns saying? What does it mean?

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

     My love is like a red, red rose

Here is the Robert Burns romantic poem “My love is like a red, red rose”. Its beautiful melody and lyrics have been sung by many including my beloved uncle Ben (Benvenuto Finelli) whom I wrote about in my blog of 6 November, 2020, “Trump, Biden, Neidle. What’s in a name?” He sang it so sweetly and movingly that it is forever etched in my memory. When I read the poem I can still picture my uncle Ben singing the song as if it were yesterday.

My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June
My love is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.                              

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.

Till all the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun
And I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only love,
And fare thee well a while!
And I will come again, my love,
Thou’ t’were ten thousand mile.

The last poem I have chosen is another favourite of mine, “John Anderson my jo, John”.

This is another poem about friendship, time and ageing. He writes that when they were first knew one another, John’s hair was black and now it is white, 

how they adventured together and the fun they had. And that even though they are now old they will remain friends unto and beyond death.

It’s a very moving poem about ageing, friendship and love.  Again, to my mind, very appropriate for the times we are in now.

John Anderson my jo, John

John Anderson my jo, John

    When we were first acquent,

Your locks were like the raven,

      Your bonie brow was brent;

But now your brow is beld, John,

      Your locks are like the snaw,

but blessings on your frosty pow,

      John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson my jo, John,

      We clamb the hill thegither,

And monie a cantie day, John,

      We’ve had wi’ ane anither;

Now we maun totter down, John,

      And hand in hand we’ll go,

And sleep thegither at the foot,

      John Anderson, my jo!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?  In these challenging times when we cannot get close to one another, love and friendship are the bonds that keep us going.

The things that keep us human. And sane. “We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Stay well. Keep safe until we meet again.

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems

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