In Bangladesh and in parts of India, the melody is well known as the setting for a song by poet Rabindranath Tagore. Danish poet Jeppe Aakjær translated it into a dialect used in Jutland. In China it is sung as a song of friendship, and in Chile, as a farewell song. You most likely sang it yourself on New Year’s Eve, or heard it sung.

burns stature glasgow copyright kerry dexterIt was Scottish national bard Robert Burns, who, in the eighteenth century, took an old folk melody and perhaps some words from folk song, and based on them wrote Auld Lang Syne. It’s a melody and an idea of honoring the persistence of friendship amid changing times that is loved and celebrated around the world, especially at the turning of the year. The words are in Scots, which is a dialect of English. The title of the well known song means long ago, or in old times, or in times past, and the thought of the song is that auld acquaintance — that is, long standing friendships — are always present and well worth remembrance and honor.

Eddi Reader, a native Scot who has a career crossing folk, pop, and country music, did a fine version of the song to conclude a BBC SCotland program on Robert Burns.

Watch and listen to Reader sing Auld Lang Syne.

photograph is of the statue of Robert Burns in George Square, Glasgow, Scotland. taken on Burns night 2009. copyright Kerry Dexter