“Auld Lang Syne”


Recognized by the first line "Should auld acquaintance be forgot" and the chorus "For auld lang syne." Two old friends meet and remember their times together, ending by taking "a cup o' kindness."


This is a song that Burns rewrote (the putative original is in the Digital Tradition as AULDLNG3; compare also the broadside NLScotland, Ry.III.a.10(070), "Old Lang Syne," unknown, dated 1701 though there is no reason for this dating on the sheet); Fuld traces the "Should Auld Acquaintance" text to 1711 in James Watson's _Scots Poems_. Burns's own version was published in the _Scots Musical Museum_ in 1796/7. This had a mostly traditional first verse, with the remainder by Burns, but by error the wrong melody was printed and has become the "traditional" tune.

Murray Shoolbraid offers these additional notes upon this topic:

"The Museum text is half-and-half, 2-3 being by Burns (about youthful days on the braes etc.) and the rest (seemingly) an old fragment. One can dispute this of course, for this old text first appears in SMM. Previously we have the 1711 version, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot / And never thought

upon,' attributed to Sir Robert Aytoun (1570-1637/8), one of the first Scots poets to write in English (knighted by King James 1612; buried in Westminster Abbey). A bit later (1720) Allan Ramsay uses the incipit to start his own poem 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot,/ Though they return with scars?/ These are the noble hero's lot,/ Obtain'd in glorious wars.'

"These old versions go to the old tune printed in SMM: The songs that predate Burns [and B's words too] go to the old melody: in Mitchell's ballad opera _The Highland Fair_ (1731), earliest in print in Playford's _Collection of Original Scotch Tunes_ (1700), also sans title in Mgt Sinkler's MS., 1710 (the versions differ). The SMM version is from Neil Stewart's _Scots Songs_, 1772.

"So the tune is correct; it was Burns's Edinburgh publisher Thomson (_Scotish Airs_, 1799) who reset the words to another tune, _I Fee'd a Lad at Martinmas_, otherwise called _The Miller's Wedding/Daughter_. This is the one we all sing it to today."

Same tune

  • Bohunkus (Old Father Grimes, Old Grimes Is Dead) (File: R428)
  • On Mules We Find Two Legs Behind (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 202; DT, MULEBEHD)
  • We Made Good Wobs Out There (Greenway-AFP, p. 182)
  • The Fish It Never Cackles Bout (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 156)
  • The Salem Murder (Burt, pp. 87-88); cf. the song on the suicide of Crowningshed which follows


  1. Silber-FSWB, p. 381, "Auld Lang Syne" (1 text)
  2. Fuld-WFM, pp. 115-117, "Auld Lang Syne"
  4. Roud #13892
  5. BI, FSWB381B


Author: Adapted by Robert Burns
Earliest date: 1797
Keywords: drink friend
Found in: Britain US