Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Peggy Noonan wrote her year-end essay for the Wall Street Journal – a reflection of the old Scottish folk tune that makes its appearance at midnight every December 31. As she well points out, most of us would be hard pressed to quote the full verse. Without her text, or maybe Google or Wiki, I’d likely misspell the hook – “Old Angzine,” or maybe “Old Lang Zign.” Certainly not Auld Lang Syne.
And, we’d find it difficult to exegete the lyric. “Auld Lang What?” asks Noonan. But the tune is connected with champaign (or Martinelli’s) and hugs and clinking of long stemmed glasses and a long kiss for that most important person in the room and as we hum the tune we say good-bye to last year and hello to the new one; all with hopes for improvement, prosperity, peace laughter and love and often associated with emotional intensity evidenced by tears. While we don’t know the meaning of the text, we associate the melody with good feelings of hope and cheer.
Noonan answers her own question. The exact meaning of the ancient phrase may not be precise, but the concept is simple: long ago. Days done by. Times past. Should old times be forgotten? They too often are. But it’s a rhetorical question. The answer is assumed: No, they will not. Those old times will never be forgotten. We’ll drink a cup of kindness; given us by those days gone by.Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne ? CHORUS: For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
Like when George Bailey of Bedford Falls discovers that his life really did matter and the townsfolk he helped return the favor, casting off Mr. Potter and the bank examiner and his war hero brother calls him the richest man in the world and Clarence gets his wings. A toast to Auld Lang Syne.
So wherever you were at the stroke of midnight at year’s end, you tipped your hat and your glass to those good old days, trying to find the kindness. You overlooked the pain and loss and fears and brokenness and as the music played, you remembered the good.
And today we are back in the world we left behind as Christmas day approached. The calendar will fill up. The calls will return. You’ll pick up where you left off. Me, too.
And this holiday past will in future days serve up a cup of kindness whenever we remember. They will be auld lang syne.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2011