Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Auld Lang Syne/ Purano Shei Diner Kotha: Part - II.

Author's Note: The 1st part can be read HERE.

Auld Lang Syne: The popular belief is that Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne" and this has been the subject of much debate. In short, though it is apparent that Burns "restored" the piece based on fragments of an old ballad dating from before his time, it can be reasonably concluded that Burns probably only added a few verses of his own - to the song. The most compelling evidence, however, is demonstrated in a letter from Burns to Mrs. Agnes Dunlop in which he comments:
"Light be the turf on breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians."

In this statement, Robert Burns was confirming that someone else had written this marvelous piece, albeit that the original words had been lost in the mists of time. His reference to "Light be the turf" means... the turf lying upon the writers grave. The "glorious fragment" confirms that Burns had taken the only known verses and added to them. His praise of the unknown writer's talent ("... the fire of native genius") demonstrates Burns great admiration for the words.   

On this basis, it has been concluded that Rabbie Burns certainly wrote at least two verses, which have been attributed to his style. (Verses 3 and 4) The other verses and the famous chorus are believed to have dated from the middle of the 16th century, if not before.

[Note: Here's Robert Burns' version of "Auld Lang Syne."]

The phrase: "Auld Lang Syne" - is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757) and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns. Matthew Fitt uses the phrase, "In the days of auld lang syne" as the equivalent of "Once upon a time..." in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.

Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." [This old man is thought to have been an old shepherd from whose lips Burns first heard this song c. 1788. Later on, he added two new stanzas of his own - to the original Scottish song. Then in 1799, this song was formally published and has ever since been associated with Burns; rather been credited to him.]

Some of the lyrics were indeed "collected" rather than composed by the poet; the ballad "Old Long Syne" printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns' later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same "old song". It is a fair supposition to attribute the rest of the poem to Burns himself.

"Auld Lang Syne" is usually sung each year at midnight on New Year's Day (Hogmanay in Scotland) in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, and the English-speaking areas of India, Pakistan, and Canada ... and signifies the start of a new year.

It is used as a graduation song and a funeral song in Taiwan and Hong Kong, symbolizing an end or a goodbye. In Japan and Hungary, too, it is used in graduation, and many stores and restaurants play it to usher customers out at the end of a business day. In both the Indian Armed Forces and the Pakistani Military, the band plays this song during the graduating parade of the recruits. In the Philippines, it is well known and sung at celebrations like graduations, New Year and Christmas Day. Also, before 1972, it was the tune for the Gaumii salaam anthem of The Maldives (with the current words). In Thailand, it is used for Samakkkhi Chumnum (Together in unity), sung after sports. In Brazil, Portugal, France, Spain, Greece, Poland, and Germany this song is used to mark a farewell. It is also used in the Scout movement for the same purpose, but with somewhat different lyrics.

The tune to which "Auld Lang Syne" is universally sung is a pentatonic Scots folk melody, probably originally a sprightly dance in a much quicker tempo.

In the United States, the song is used as a song of remembrance at 9-11 memorials and other memorial events. The University of Virginia's alma mater ("The Good Old Song"), and the anthem of Alpha Kappa Psi, the largest professional business fraternity in the U.S., is both sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne".

In India, the melody was the direct inspiration for the popular Bengali song "Purano shei diner kotha" (About the old days) composed by the great Nobel laureate Kobiguru Rabindranath Tagore. And it forms one of the more recognizable tunes in Rabindra Sangeet (the songs of Rabindranath Tagore) - a treasure-trove of 2,230 songs and lyrical poems that form the backbone of Bengali (Bangla) music. In Japan, the Japanese students' song Hotaru no hikari ("Glow of a Firefly") uses the "Auld Lang Syne" tune. The words are a series of images of hardships that the industrious student endures in his relentless quest for knowledge, starting with the firefly’s light - that the student uses to keep studying when s/he has no other light sources.

The tune is also used for the Dutch football song, Wij houden van Oranje (We love Orange). In France, the melody is used with French words and the parting song is entitled Ce n’est qu’un au revoir (This is only 'until we meet again' [not goodbye]). In Indonesia, the melody is used as a farewell song that is commonly sung during graduation or farewell parties. In South Korea, the melody was used for their national anthem, Aegukga, until composer Ahn Eak-tai composed a new melody to the existing lyrics. In Italy, Italian football supporters are very familiar with this melody since the 1970s. It is often sung in stadiums during the matches, especially after the kick-off. Many Italian supporters of different regions and cities adopted this tune and arranged its lyrics according to their teams. These are the lyrics sung by A.S. Roma supporters: La nostra fede mai morrà/canteremo noì ultrà/e insieme a te saremo allor/forza Roma vinci ancor (Our faith will never die/we, the ultrà, will sing/then we'll be with you/come on Roma, win again). In Spain and in Poland, the Scouts movement - for their farewell song at the end of summer camps or just to say goodbye after big events - uses this tune.

So, I guess, one can safely conclude that "Auld Lang Syne" is indeed a very well traveled song.

"Your friend is your needs answered." So said the Lebanese-American artist, poet and writer - the great Kahlil Gibran.

And I say, true that! Wholeheartedly.

Frankly, there are no words to fully express the joys of having friends, especially friends that one can grow wise with. However, both the great bards – Robert Burns and Robi Thakur tried to, what say?

Here are Kahlil Gibran's complete words:

Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”

And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;

For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

[by Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883 - April 10, 1931)
From The Prophet (1923)
Section - Friendship]

Do listen:

1. Julie Andrews singing Auld Lang Syne: Link.

2. Auld Lang Syne with Bagpipes: Link.

3. Auld Lang Syne (Celtic Version): Link.

4. Susan Boyle singing Auld Lang Syne: Link.

5. And here's the Bee Gees singing Black Diamond (YouTube link). The lyrics can be found: HERE.

Listen to them and be claimed by nostalgia!


PS: Here's the Bee Gees' How Deep Is Your Love (link). Timeless, isn't it? Just couldn't resist mentioning it here and providing the link too. Enjoy!

PPS: As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of Scotland. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today include A Red, Red Rose; A Man's A Man for A' That; To a Louse; To a Mouse; Halloween, The Battle of Sherramuir; Tam o' Shanter, and Ae Fond Kiss. To know more about this Scottish genius, hop on to: Link.

Photograph: The best-known portrait of Burns, by Alexander Nasmyth. Full view of the Nasmyth portrait of 1787, Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Pic. courtesy: Link.

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