If you have a lot of time on your hands, and if patience is one of the virtues you pride yourself on exhibiting, I invite you to try to figure out what the hell Robert Burns was trying to say when he wrote down the traditional verses of Auld Lang Syne.
For everyone else who has better things to do than try to translate 300-year-old Scottish dialect into Modern Day English, here’s what the song says as far as I can tell:
Let’s not forget old times, and let’s not forget old friends.
Let’s have a drink together, for the sake of old times.
A long time ago, we hiked together, we picked flowers together, and we waded in the streams together. But time passes quicker than any of us realize, and things change. And although we have these good memories together, time and circumstances often drive old friends apart.
Still, give me your hand old friend, and I’ll give you mine. Despite the years that have passed, and the things that have come between us, let’s have a drink together for old time’s sake.
And here, I’ll take the liberty to embellish a bit. I hope Robert Burns will forgive me.
We’ve been through a lot in the last year, and recently, it’s felt like there’s more differences between us than similarities. Families seem to be at each other’s throats, and neighbors no longer trust each other like they used to. It’s becoming less and less clear that we’re on the same team, and although I can remember a time when we used to work through our differences together, those times seem like a distant memory now.
But in the darkest part of the winter, families always come back together again. Things have changed, and they won’t be the same as they were before, and things might well get worse before they get better.
The end of the year reminds us that everything will end, including us. We all feel the same cold, we all feel that we’re growing old, and we all fear for what the future might hold. Let’s take a break from the fight and put aside our differences, and let’s join hands and have a drink together before we start back at it again next year. We’re all in this together, and we’ll be better off together than if we drive ourselves apart. Come in from the cold, share a drink together, and remember that we are all working for the same thing: a full life for ourselves, a better future for our children, and a legacy that we can pass on together to the generations yet to come.
Robert Burns wrote down the verses of Auld Lang Syne in 1788. The bloody American Revolution was in very recent living memory, when the Colonists and the King split apart forever. The French Revolution was just gearing up, and over the next decade, everyone there would dig in and tear each other apart. Things got a lot worse before they got better, and it’s not even clear now that everything has fully shaken out.
We’ll have plenty of time for fighting in 2018, and ground will be lost and won all across the country. But for the next few days, it might be good for everyone to remember that we are all out for the same thing, and that we’ll all be better off joining hands than pushing each other away.
And here’s my hand, my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught
for auld lang syne.
Before you raise your glass and prepare for the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” this New Years Eve, please consider being added to my growing list of contributors. Or if you have time to give you can sign up to volunteer here. Your help is needed to take our voice to the state house.
I wish you and yours a Happy New Year, and as always thank you for your support.