An old song of olden times

Robert Burns

Letter to George Thomson, incorporating a manuscript of "Auld Lang Syne," September 1793

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1906

Item description: 

In 1793, Robert Burns filled a twenty-page letter with comments on seventy-four songs that editor George Thomson had proposed to include in a musical anthology. Burns then offered Thomson "one song more": this manuscript of "Auld Lang Syne." Burns claimed (perhaps disingenuously) to have transcribed the text as he listened to an old man singing a traditional song. As for the tune then associated with the words, Burns considered it "but mediocre," and Thomson apparently agreed: when he published "Auld Lang Syne" in his Select Collection of Original Scotish Airs in 1799 (after Burns had died), he substituted a different tune—the one we sing today.


This text begins on the fourth line of the manuscript. In the transcription of "Auld Lang Syne," the Scots words have been underlined and an English translation provided in parentheses.

One Song more, & I have done. Auld lang syne—The air is but mediocre; but the following song, the old Song of the olden times, & which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, untill I took it down from an old man's singing; is enough to recommend any air.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, (old)
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my Dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, (take)
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, (two, have, hills)
And pu't the gowans fine; (pulled/daisies)
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot, (many)
Sin auld lang syne. (since)

We twa hae paidlet i' the burn, (two/have/paddled/in/brook)
Frae mornin' sun till dine: (from/dinnertime)
But seas between us braid hae roar'd, (broad/have)
Sin auld lang syne. (since)

And there's a hand, my trusty feire, (friend)
And gie's a hand o' thine; (give us)
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught, (goodwill draft)
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp, (buy/cup or tankard)
And surely I'll be mine; (buy)
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.