auld lang syne

Old Long Since? a long time ago?  I take it to mean, “for old time’s sake”.  Most people think of Robert Burns’ 1788 “Auld Lang Syne” when they reference the origin of the New Year’s song, which apparently is a Scottish or English poem/tune compiled from perhaps a variety of sources and/or created by Burns.  But there is an earlier 1711 version credited to James Watson.  Wikipedia and “The Word on the Street” also reference other earlier versions, such as from Robert Aytoun.  I tried to pin down a good transcription of the 1711 Watson poem, which included all of the verses.  I found this:

and here’s the link to the transcription, which I’ll replicate below, from Word on the Street.

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully passed and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
    on Old long syne,
  That thou canst never once reflect,
    in Old long syne.

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne                                 
   For Old long syne my Jo,   
     for Old long syne,
   That thou canst never once reflect,
     on Old long syne.

Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
Will not thy presence yield relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially when I reflect
on old long syne.
    On old long syne my Jo,
      on Old long syne:
    That thou canst never once reflect,
      on Old long syne.

Oh then Clorinda pray prove more kind,
be not ungratefull still:
Since that my Heart ye have so ty’d,
why shoud ye then it kill:
Sure Faith and Hope depends on thee,
kill me not with disdain:
Or else I swear I`le still reflect,
on Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,                     
    on Old long syne;
 I pray you do but once reflect,               
    on Old long syne.

Since you have rob’d me of my Heart;
It’s reason I have yours;
Which Madam Nature doth impart,
to your black Eyes and Browes:
With honour it doth not consist,
to hold thy Slave in pain:
Pray let thy rigour then resist,
for Old long syne.               
 For Old long syne my Jo,
    for Old long syne;
 That then canst never once reflect,
    on Old long syne.

It is my freedom I do crave,
by deprecating pain;
Since libertie ye will not give,
who glories in his Chain:
But yet I wish the gods to move
that noble Heart of thine;
To pitty since ye cannot love,
   for Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,               
    for Old long syne;                        
That thou may ever once reflect,
    on Old long syne.

Dear will ye give me back my Heart,
since I cannot have thine;
For since with yours ye will not part,
no reason you have mine;
But yet I think I’le let it ly,
within that breast of thine.
Who hath a Thief in every Eye,
to make me live in pain.
For Old long syne my Jo,
    for Old long syne;
Wilt thou not ever once reflect,
    On Old long syne.

THE SECOND PART.

Where are thy Protestations,
thy Vows and Oaths my Dear;
Thou made to me and I to thee,
in Register yet clear.
Is Faith and Truth so violet,
to immortal Gods divine,
As never once for to reflect
on Old long syne;
On Old long syne my Jo,
    on Old long syne;
That thou canst never once reflect,
    on Old long syne.  

It’s Cupid’s Fears or Frostie Cares
that makes thy Sprits decay:
Or it’s an Object of more worth,
hath stoln my Heart away?
Or some desert makes thee neglect
her, so much once was thine.
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
    on Old long syne;
That thou canst never once reflect,
    on Old long syne.

Is Worldly cares so desperat,
that makes thee to despair?
It’s that, thee exasperates
and makes thee to forbear?
If thou of Ty, were free as I,
Thou truely should be mine,
If this ware true we should renew
kind Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,
    for Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
    on Old long syne.

But since that nothing can prevail
and all hopes are in vain;
From these rejected Eyes of mine,
still showers of Tears shall rain:
Although thou has me now forgot,
yet I’le continue thine;
And ne’r neglect for to reflect,
on Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,
    on Old long syne;
That thou canst never once reflect,
    on Old long syne.

If ever I have a house my Dear,
that’s truely called mine;
That can afford best Countrey chear,
or ought that’s good therein:
Though thou wet Rebell to the King
and beat with Wind and Rain,
Assure thy self of welcome Love,
for Old long syne.
For Old long syne my Jo,
    for Old long syne,
Assure thy self of welcome Love,
    for Old long syne.

FINIS

Maybe it’s a depressing poem about how the one you used to love, your ex or an old friend, doesn’t remember you any more, doesn’t look back and recall the good old times.  And you’re (the narrator) is asking himself whether he should leave the past alone and forget them too.  At times he’s bitter (you can’t ever reflect on the good times past), at times there’s the slightest change in the chorus and he’s pleading them to remember him as he does them (I pray that you once reflect), or maybe a softer hope rather than a plea.  And in the end, he decides he could be bitter, he could forget as well, but even though they no longer reflect, he decides he still will, and welcome them still.

Is it about whether it’s better to remember the past or let it go?  Is it about remembering old friends or getting over your ex?  I’m inclined to think “Auld Lang Syne” in truth is really a somber ballad that suggests you should remember your old acquaintances out of the sadness of their absence.  And I find it telling that “Auld Lang Syne” is sung at New Years and at funerals (also graduations), events that mark a passing.

The When Harry Met Sally take on “Auld Lang Syne”:

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