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“Auld Lang Syne”: Critical Detailed Analysis And Summary


The release of the song-poem “Auld Lang Syne” by Robert Burns has a fascinating back story. Robert Burns handed the song’s manuscript to the Scots Musical Museum after finishing it with the note: “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”

It’s interesting to note that rather than being composed, parts of the song’s words were “gathered”. However, James Watson published the song “Old Long Syne” in 1711. The opening verse and chorus of Burn’s subsequent poem are comparable in the printed version.

It has roots in the same “old tune”. The rest of the verse’s authorship, on the other hand, may only be inferred. Additionally, James Watson, Robert Ayton, and Allan Ramsay utilized the poem’s title, “Auld Lang Syne,” in different compositions. The term “in the old days of Auld Lang Syne” was employed by Matthew Fit in his retelling of Scottish fairy tales.

“Auld Lang Syne” in this context refers to “once upon a time”.  With the note, “The following song, an old song, of the olden days, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I got it down from an old man,”. Moreover, in 1788 Robert Burns had sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum.

Some of the lyrics were “collected” rather than written by the poet.

For instance, Burns’ later poem’s opening verse and chorus are strikingly similar to the song “Old Long Syne,” published by James Watson, and are probably certainly taken from the same “old song.”


The poem starts with the two people appearing where one person speaks, and the other sing along with him. The speaker starts reminiscing about the past days while they both start drinking. He continues by saying that people are ought to be forgotten. He continues by saying that people must remember the earlier days.

The speaker finds it difficult to forget his friendship and a sense of oneness with his companion. In the past, they enjoyed their time together by paddling in the stream, gathering beautiful daisies, and running around the hills. Finally, the speaker instructs his friend to drink a “goodwill draught” while thinking back on the past.


Speaking of the title, “Auld Lang Syne” translates to “old long ago” in Standard English. It can also be used to refer to “far ago”, “days gone by”, or “ancient times”. However, the chorus’s opening line, “For Auld Lang Syne”, can be loosely referred to as “for the sake of ancient times.”

The poem’s title directly alludes to the bygone eras and recollections that serve as sources of motivation. The poet evokes in the reader a friendship or bond that seems to be established years ago.

Form & Structure

In this poem “Auld Lang Syne”, we have got six four-line stanzas where each stanza is referred to as a quatrain since all four of its lines have been rhymed. After each of the quatrains, the second quatrain is intended to be recited as a chorus. Each quatrain’s final line, which repeats the poem’s title whole or in part, is referred to as the refrain.

This poem is a song in the Scots language. Moreover, the opening stanza of the poem has an ABAB rhyme pattern and alternate rhyming lines. The subsequent stanzas are ballads. As a result, these stanzas use the ABCB rhyme pattern.

Additionally, the whole poem alternates between Iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. In contrast, the poem’s refrain, “For Auld Lang Syne”, is in iambic dimeter. The poem’s overall tone is greatly influenced by the lines’ rising rhythm.

Literary Devices

The opening line of “Auld Lang Syne” is a rhetorical inquiry. One is reminded of former friendships by the opening inquiry. The phrase in the poem called “cup of kindness” contains a metaphor. Here, the poet makes a comparison between a cup of wine and a cup of kindness. A hyperbaton has been deployed in the fourth stanza and “pou’d the gowans fine”

The next line in this stanza has another literary device. In this case, “tired foot” is personified. It also employs synecdoche, though. The poet uses onomatopoeia in the roaring of the ocean. The sea is used here figuratively. The conjunction “and” is, however, repeated in the last chorus to emphasize it. The name of this device is anaphora.


Stanza 1

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld Lang syne!”

Auld Lang Syne’s first line makes it apparent that there are two folks in this poem.  One comes to be the poem’s narrator, who converses with an old friend while sipping from the “cup of compassion”.

The query posed by the literary persona to his buddy is endearing. This query is posed to the readers as well. The question was “is it possible for anyone to forget his or her old acquaintances?  The simple answer to it is no! Nobody will ever forget the memories that once warmed their hearts and inspired them to keep going.

So, in the poem’s first verse, the poet stresses the value of enduring friendships. He intends to emphasize the value of maintaining long-standing friendships by posing such a question. We should make an effort to constantly remember our old acquaintances for the sake of the time we have shared with them.

Stanza 2


“For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.”

The Scots line “For auld lang syne” is repeated at the start of the first chorus. The term in this context indicates “for the love of the past”. The poet advises them to re-imbibe together while recalling old memories, past triumphs, and losses.

The poet’s main theme is the exaltation of the past before rushing recklessly into the future. The poet alludes to a “cup of kindness” in this chorus. It alludes to previous memories.

Here the poet tells his friend in this line that they will each purchase a cup of alcohol, which equals one pint. A pint is a measurement that is somewhat larger than a half-litre. The poet promises his companion that they will each drink that much wine in remembrance of the times they shared as children.

This suggests that the poem’s setting is a tavern, where the poet is reuniting with an old friend after a protracted distance.

Stanza 3

“And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.”

The first two lines of “Auld Lang Syne’s third stanza used anaphora. The word “And undoubtedly” is repeated in this sentence to emphasize its importance. But both the poet and his companion will undoubtedly accept their cups. They will also partake in a drink while discussing the past. In this context, “pint stowp” refers to a wine cup or “pint cup”.

Additionally, the poet uses the phrase “cup of kindness” often to emphasize the significance of past recollections. The poet takes a sip from the glass of goodwill in honour of those memories. The poet remembers his companion and the enjoyable times they had together in this verse.

He recalls how they had to hike up the Scottish Highlands’ mountains. They had picked daisies from the area without hesitation because there was a lot of vegetation growing out on the slopes. They may have been exhausted from such lengthy journeys, but they had continued to walk side by side, relying on one another for companionship.

Stanza 4

“We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.”

The poetic persona recalls those earlier years when they were youthful, vibrant, and full of energy in this chorus. Here it’s crucial to employ the present perfect tense. The speaker still remembers those events as if they had just occurred yesterday. But back then, people used to run around the hills or “braes,” and collect beautiful flowers called “gowans,” or daisies.

His foot grew tired of the journey after they had roamed all day. One can infer that the poet is seeing those moments in his recollection from the usage of the refrain. He does it so frequently that it appears that they have been running for a long time. He recalls how they had to hike up the Scottish Highlands’ mountains.

They had picked daisies from the area without any hesitation because there was a lot of vegetation growing on the slopes. Although they got completely exhausted upon making such lengthy journeys, they had continued to walk side by side, relying on one another for companionship.

Stanza 5

“We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.”

The speaker then recalls to his friend in the fifth stanza how they paddled in the stream or “burn” together from morning till dinnertime. When the poet couldn’t do any wrong, those were the good old days. Like a river, the early years are constantly limitless. After that, as the days go by, one is forced to shoulder a number of obligations.

Life gets harder. One is nothing if those memories are missing. The poet cherishes those memories. The sea of life, which serves as a metaphor, has widened the gap between them. This sea could be a metaphor for one’s family or adult life. The poet proceeds to describe the adventures he had with his companion in the sun in this stanza.

He recalls how they had gone canoeing in the several waterways near their boyhood homes, paddling continuously from the early morning until late at night, when their family summoned them inside for dinner.

Since then circumstances have changed, and the two of the companions are now separated, thus hinting that perhaps one of them has relocated to another continent.

Stanza 6

“And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,

For auld lang syne.”

 The song’s final chorus, “Auld Lang Syne”, starts with an anaphora. Before sipping their wine, the speaker asked his friend for his reliable hand and stretched it. But the poet uses the phrase “right gude-willie waught”. Here “waught” refers to draught, and the poet claims that it will foster goodwill between the two of them.

The use of the synonyms “right” and “gude” in this phrase has also included a tautology. Again, it is being said for emphasis’s sake. The poet expresses the desire to shake hands with his friend, so he first extends his hand, and assures his companion to extend his hand in a similar manner.

For the sake of tradition, they must shake their hands and consume all of their drink in one sip. This leads us to believe that perhaps the gathering has come to an end and it is now the time for the buddies to resume their own lives. Thus it is evident that this song is a farewell.


The song-poem “Auld Lang Syne” is more than just a song for the New Year. It is a powerful illustration of the tragic ambivalence of man’s relationship to time, which mingles nostalgia and desire, rips apart the old bonds and forges new ones, transforms youthful adventures into memories of old men, makes the very nature of consciousness, and is both the source and destroyer of human experience.

Except for the chorus, which expresses the question that sits at the centre of so much human emotion in plain but effective language, everything is done in the purest folk style.

Even though Robert Burns never claimed authorship and there are probably remnants of an earlier version, it is undeniable that the song as it is now is primarily his work. To appreciate the stark contrast between Burns’ version and what the song had evolved into by the time Burns came to modify it, we just need to compare it to the earlier extant poems of the same title.

This song poem begins with a rhetorical question: Is it fair to demand that the past be forgotten at the outset of the song? The response is typically viewed as a reminder to cherish lifelong friendships. As an alternative, “should” could be interpreted as “if” which states the conditional mood when referring to a potential circumstance.

George Thomson’s Select Songs of Scotland, the second lyric about addressing and toasting was relocated to its current location at the end.

The opening verse and chorus are the only parts of the song that are most frequently used. In place of Burn’s more straightforward phrases, the final lines of both these are frequently sung with the additional words “For the sake of” or “And days of”.

The Scots term “auld lang syne” is retained in the “singable” English translation provided here rather than being translated as “long, long ago” or something like that.

There are several hints in this song that the poet is truly bidding farewell to an old buddy. He claims in the third line that the seas divide him from his friend, indicating that they live in different locations. They shake hands in the fifth stanza as if they are preparing to part ways. Because of this, this song is generally considered to be a ballad of farewell.

The song is sung not just on New Year’s Eve but also during funerals and graduations. The poem also spends a significant amount of time recalling occasions passed with the old acquaintance he is meeting.

This subjective viewpoint and human element in poetry are typical of the Romantic period, and it stands in stark contrast to the Augustan poetry’s prevalent use of humour and irony. Burns is regarded as a pre-Romantic because of this. The poem also spends a significant amount of time recalling moments passed with the old acquaintance he is meeting.

This subjective viewpoint and human element in poetry are typical of the Romantic period, and it stands in stark contrast to the Augustan poetry’s prevalent use of humour and irony.

Burns is regarded as a pre-Romantic because of this. His topics are similar to those of Romantic writers like Wordsworth and Shelley, but he lived a few decades earlier. He likewise inspired a new school of authors who might later be referred to as the Romantics.


What type of poem is ‘Auld Lang Syne’?

The song poem was composed by Robert Burns in the Scots language in 1788, but it is based on an older Scottish folk song. It was first set to a well-known tune in 1799, and it has since been customary.

What are some of Robert Burns’s most famous pieces of work?

Auld Lang Syne, the traditional New Year’s Eve anthem, is by far Robert Burn’s most well-known piece. A Red, Red Rose and another epic poem by Tam O’ Shanter are the two other well-known masterpieces.

What is the message of this poem?

The title of the poem Auld Lang Syne can be rendered in Standard English as the word which means “old long since” or, less literally, it is referred to as “days gone by”. The poem’s message was to ask the rhetorical question: “Will it be fair to demand that the past be forgotten? The response is generally viewed as a reminder to cherish lifelong friendships.

What does the Scottish word ‘Syne’ mean?

The meaning of the Scottish word “Syne” is “since then”.

Is ‘Auld Lang Syne’ a poem?

It was a traditional Scots ballad at first, but Robert Burns turned it into a well-known poem. It is divided into six stanzas, each of which uses the rhyme pattern to create a ballad.

What does the phrase ‘Auld Lang Syne’ mean?

Though not a direct translation, but the term “Auld Lang Syne” refers to the phrase “old long ago”. Moreover, the meaning is closer to “old times”, or “back in the day”.

What does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ mean literally?

Although the precise translation is “old long ago”, the concept is more akin to “old times” or “the olden days.” The expression “should auld[or “old] acquaintance be forgotten” is actually fairly similar in both Scots and English.

What is the rhyme in ‘Auld Lang Syne’?

The song-poem Auld Lang Syne is sung on New Year’s Eve in other English-speaking nations along with Scotland to bid goodbye to the previous year. Rhetorical devices and rhyme scheme includes this song’s chorus and all the five stanzas follow the same straightforward rhyme pattern: ABCB

What does a cup of kindness symbolize?

The phrase “we’ll take a cup o’ kindness” alludes to the custom of raising a glass, or “cup o” kindness, “ in honour of “great actions” and with “goodwill, friendship and kind regard.”

What does Selkirk Grace mean?
A prayer in the Scots language is called “Selkirk Grace”. It is customarily recited after a Burns supper. The host will make a short speech before the guests who are welcomed for the dinner and explain the purpose of the get-together.

What is the meaning of Lang?

The word “Lang” is a scot word which is an adjective for the word “long”