Old Times

Robert Burns

January fast is fading. Tonight, this 25th of January, brings Burns Night. It’s the birthday of Robert Burns, Bard of Scotland. Our friend Rabbie was born on the 25th of January, 1759, at Burns Cottage at Alloway, and this is the traditional night for a Burns Supper, a tradition that began in 1801, five years after the poet’s death. It is a tradition that carries on in literary (and drinking) circles to this day. And for those of us who keep Christmas through to Candlemas Eve, Burns Night serves, too, as a reminder that the Yuletide season will soon give way to our first welcoming of spring, which may still be far away, yet in sight, as we take our first steps upon the bridge from winter to spring that is St. Brigid’s Day in just one week’s time, on the First of February.

That evening of the First of February brings Candlemas Eve: the night that all vestiges of the Yuletide season should be removed: 40 days past Christmas, halfway between winter solstice and vernal equinox.

Robert Burns, of course, gave us the song “Auld Lang Syne.” We began our month singing it at New Year’s Eve, and we end our month singing it for Burns Night, for “Auld Lang Syne” is the song that closes all traditional Burns Night suppers. (The version I like best is this one: click here to hear the Revels perform it; it’s a tune you’ve probably not sung the song to, but one that feels, if you ask me, more fitting to the language.) Do you know the words? Here they are:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

The words “auld lang syne” translate essentially to old long since, or old times. The song is one about remembering. And it is right, it is good, to spend some time remembering. Especially tonight, when we remember Robert Burns and all those who love him. He was a sentimental poet, Robert Burns, and for those of us who love poetry, or who love Rabbie Burns, or who love Christmas… we come to a time in the Wheel of the Year where we might get a bit sentimental ourselves. But we need this on occasion: a cup o’ kindness, and the laughter and the tears that come with remembering.

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Image: “Robert Burns” by Alexander Nasmyth. Oil on panel, 1828, Edinburgh: Scottish National Gallery. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

2 thoughts on “Old Times

  1. mary beth shipley says:

    So cozy….hope you enjoy your evening. I will do a small celebration here too. Thankfully we are chilly here in Houston.

    Love your posts!

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