Poetry Wednesday: Sing it with me

When I started these weekly poetry rambles, I had no idea that anyone would actually read them.

I just figured I’d post my favorite stuff (or not) until no one bothered to show.

But you did show and kept showing, and a lot of you have been kind enough to share your own opinions and favorites either here or by e-mail.

Thank you for humoring me and arguing with me and for entering my odd contests and maybe trying something new along the way.

So here we are.  Last poem of the year.

Or a ballad, anyway, which is a poem sung to music and therefore earns extra points in my personal tally. Most of the really good ballads have been sung over the centuries until the origins are lost and someone decides to write them down, though in the earliest versions they usually omit any real instructions about the tunes, since everyone already knows them.*

Several someones wrote this particular one down, including Allan Ramsay and Robbie Burns, who put their own unmistakable, broguish stamp on it, but I’ve always been partial to James Watson’s 1711 version—as beautiful as the other versions are, sometimes I don’t feel like rolling my Rs until my tongue goes numb and my friends from Falkirk shake their heads in pity.

However you  prefer to roll, or not, Old Long Syne-ing or Auld Lang Syn-ing, for the sake of old times and the hope that new times will be just as good—if not better—let’s sing it together, shall we?

You know the tune.

Old Long Syne

(James Watson, 1711)

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past 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,
in 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 yeild 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 depracating 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 it 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.


Where are thy Protestations,
thy Vows and Oaths my Dear;
Thou made to me and to thee,
in Register yet clear.
Is Faith and Truth so violat,
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
Old long syne.

Is Worldly cares so desperat,
that makes thee to despair?
It’s that, thee exasperats
and makes thee to forbear?
If thou of Ty, were free as I,
Thou surely 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 wast 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.

Happy New Year, my friends.


*Very old recipes are like this, too, which drives me crazy, as I’m always finding ones from the 1700s that sound absolutely delicious but assume I was taught from birth how to ‘rise a heavy sponge’ and what a basic cottage filling might be when it’s at home, how to blanch a drupe, and the exact measure of drims and drams and the relative weight of a small brown egg.  I’m an American of the microwave generation.  I’m lucky I can wield a whisk without hurting myself and figure out pinches and dashes and blooms without poisoning people.


17 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Sing it with me

  1. Good post. I’ll admit it was your Wednesday posts that introduced me to your blog. Most poetry blog entries don’t speak to the general audience as yours do. I appreciate all of your efforts, and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
    As I read this, there’s a certain sadness in this version of the poem, that I never really noted in the song. I’ve always associated it with a certain wistful look to the future. Reflection brings out both I suppose. I have been glad to make your acquaintance and I wish you all the best in 2012.

    • Thank you, John. I’m so glad you decided to stick around—your comments and insights (and your poetic gifts) give the place a needed touch of class.

      And I have to agree—Watson’s version does dwell on the sad side a bit more than we’ve come to expect, but I think that only makes the hope shine brighter and adds a sincerity to the affirmation of friendship and/or love. But maybe that’s just me?

      Best wishes to you, too!

    • One version, anyway! 🙂

      Can you imagine what my posts would look like if I couldn’t use footnotes to tidy away all the riffs? Incoheranter chaos.

      Happy New Year, Lisa!

    • Sometimes I skip to the footnotes, then start again at the top. Which is not something I did in history class, let me tell you.

      Sarah, your humor and intelligence and this fabulous blog have been one of the high points of my year. Here’s to 2012, and many more poems/videos/posts//photos/footnotes to come. Love you to bits.

  2. I have an old cookbook that was my husband’s great grandmother’s. It so happens that he was named after his great grandfather so in the church cookbook are the recipe’s by Mrs. So And So, always the husbands name. The sheer irony that she and I share a name, the Mrs. So And So name, and there it is in print and I can’t cook worth a darn. I have muddled my way through cookies that involve more shortening and butter than humanly feasible, along with dribs and drabs of buttermilk. And man, are they good. Even I can’t screw them up…much.

    That being said, Happy New Year, my dear friend.

    • My MIL, whose family is from Tennessee and Virginia, has a collection of those cookbooks, and half the recipes start with “Melt two sticks of oleo.” Any recipe that starts that way has to be amazing.

      Happy New Year, Lyra, you unicorn role model, you.

      (no notecard yet—arrgghh)

  3. Thanks for being such a beautiful constant in my life. Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to what 2012 brings us.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this, Sarah. I’ve never seen the whole thing and it was such a pleasure to read through it this morning, over coffee, in the dark and early peace of the day.

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