Archive for December 29th, 2009

Robert Burns: Auld Lang Syne

December 29, 2009

For the Ohio Repository

TO THE MEMORY OF ROBERT BURNS.

A PARODY ON “AULD LANG SYNE.”

Dear BURNS, till earth itself decline,
And nature fades away,
The mystic powers of auld lang syne,
Thy genius shall portray;
Thy genius shall portray, my dear,
Thy genius shall portray,

The mystic, &c.

Oh, yes! each feeling, magic line,
Shall swell the grateful soul,
And while we sing of auld lang syne,
We’ll grasp the friendly bowl;

We’ll grasp, &c.

We’ll drink, the friend, not cool by time,
We’ll drink the friend of soul,
We’ll drink to thee, to auld lang syne,
We’ll drain the social bowl;

We’ll drain &c.

Oh, could I reach thy friendly hand,
And could’st thou but reach mine;
We’d take a cordial, social glass,
For auld lang syne;

For auld lang syne, &c.

But fare thee well, if thou art blest,
Thy friends need not repine;
But sometimes give a kindly thought,
To auld lang syne;

To auld lang syne, &c.

Ohio Repository (Canton, Ohio) Apr 1, 1825

Has another public idol fallen? Was Burns a plagiarist are the important questions that are agitating the literary world. Burns has ever been regarded as one of the most original poets but according to Henley & Henderson’s newly published volume, out of 509 of his songs, 158 were appropriated or derived from other and older ballads. Spare forbids me to give many examples, but take the popular “Old Lang Syne.” Burns’ version reads:

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And ne’er be brought to mind;
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And the days of auld lang syne.
Chorus —
For auld lang syne, my dear,
Auld lang syne,
We’ll tak’ a cup of kindness yet
For the days of auld lang syne.”

An old English ballad extant many years anterior to Burns’ birth reads as follows:

Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never thought upon
The Flames of Love extinguished
And freely passed and gone;
Is thy kind Heart now grown so cold
In that Boving Breast of thine,
That thou can’st never once reflect
On old lang syne.
Chorus —
On old lang syne,
On old lang syne,
On old lang syne,
That thou can’st never once reflect
On old lang syne.

In the Scotch vernacular “auld” means “old,” and “lang” means “long.” There are many other so glaring resemblance in verse and sentiment that while we must admit that Burns’ version is an improvement on the old song we cannot resist the impression that his supposed original songs are simply parodies of old ballads he heard or read in his native land.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Feb 6, 1898

Interesting discussion of the song in:

Title:    Annual Burns chronicle and club directory, Issues 13-16
Authors:    Robert Burns, Burns Federation
Publisher:    D. Brown, 1904
Original from:    Harvard University

“Auld Lang Syne” starts on page 89. (Google Book link)

Alexander Graham Bell: Music To Your Ears

December 29, 2009

Alexander G. Bell (Image from http://www.dailyhistory.net)

Music by Telegraph.

[From the Boston Traveller.]

The readers of the Traveller have been made acquainted with the wonderful inventions of Professor Bell, by which musical and vocal sounds can be and have been sent over the electric wires, but few if any are aware of the wonderful results which are sure to follow these improvements in telegraphy.

A few nights ago Professor Bell was in communication with a telegraphic operator in New York, and commenced experimenting with one of his inventions pertaining to the transmission of musical sounds. He made use of his phonetic organ and played the tune of “America,” and asked the operator in New York what he heard.

“I hear the tune of America,” replied New York; “give us another.”

Professor Bell then played Auld Lang Syne.

“What do you hear now?”

“I hear the tune of Auld Lang Syne, with the full chords, distinctly,” replied New York.

Thus, the astounding discovery has been made that a man can play upon musical instruments in New York, New Orleans, or London, or Paris, and be heard distinctly in Boston! If this can be done, why can not distinguished performers execute the most artistic and beautiful music in Paris, and an audience assemble in Music Hall, Boston, to listen?

Professor Bell’s other improvement, namely, the transmission of the human voice, has become so far perfected that persons have conversed over one thousand miles of wire with perfect ease, although as yet the vocal sounds are not loud enough to be heard by more than one or two persons. But if the human voice can now be sent over the wire, and so distinctly that when two or three known parties are telegraphing, the voices of each can be recognized, we may soon have distinguished men delivering speeches in Washington, New York or London, and audiences assembled in Music Hall, or Faneull Hall, to listen!

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jul 29, 1876

***

View Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers on the Library of Congress website.