Morag Josephine Grant

Published On


Page Range

pp. 19-40

Print Length

21 pages

2. Auld Lang Syne

Context and Genesis

The song Auld Lang Syne as we know it today first appeared in print in the late eighteenth century. It is closely associated with poet and songwriter Robert Burns, whose life, work and legacy are briefly summarised here. This chapter, however, primarily traces the prehistory of the modern song, which has been traced back as far as the fifteenth century. The focus here is particularly on the period from the late seventeenth century, when various songs on the sentiments “Should auld acquaintaince be forgot” and “Auld lang syne” were in circulation. These songs were generally sung to a different tune than the most familiar tune of Auld Lang Syne: that older tune is, however, related to, but not identical with, the tune to which Burns’s version was originally set. The emergence and influence of collections of “national song” such as those in which Burns’s song first appeared are discussed alongside other aspects of the song culture of eighteenth-century Britain. The chapter situates all of these developments in the political, social and cultural context of Scotland and Britain in the eighteenth century—a time of immense change in all these areas—and concludes with a discussion of possible links between the eighteenth-century songs on “Auld lang syne” and the Jacobite movement.