SENDING OFF 2019 IN AULD LANG STYLE

Toasting the end of the year as we usher in a new one
BY MATTHEW MEADOR

When I was naming this column in the inaugural issue of Cheers Northwest a few months ago, I really only considered two names. Because this is a food-and-spirits publication, it made the most sense to name the column “Last Call,” after the universally-known “last call for alcohol” hollered just before closing time in bars everywhere. Since this column appears at the end of the magazine, it seemed especially fitting as a parting message — the obvious choice.  
  But I liked the second option better even though it was probably too nuanced for readers unfamiliar with the verse by the same name: “The Parting Glass.” Now, Celticfolk are the masters of the send-off. No other people has produced verse of the quality and quantity the Celtic have to signal the end. And the end of what? Most Celtic send-off verses are suitable for anything from the final moments of a gathering of good friends to the death of a life well-lived plus every ending in between — in my mind, maybe even the column appearing in the last pages of a magazine. Simultaneously humorous and haunting, joyful and teary, these songs evoke emotion and underscore the memorable moments of whatever event they’re marking at the moment the present becomes the past.  
  For the purposes of this column, I’m including the Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Breton, Cornish and Manx as Celts — I do not want to debate whether “The Parting Glass” is more Irish or Scotch. Whatever the case, it was widely regarded as the most popular folk song in both Ireland and Scotland, boasting even a late stanza apparently added by the inimitable Robert Burns. “The Parting Glass” was the most popular song, that is, until Robert Burns wrote another one.
  Which brings us, fittingly, to the end of 2019 and a better-known Celtic send-off, “Auld Lang Syne.”
  We all sing it at midnight, the end of New Year’s Eve. Or we sing the bits we can remember, anyway. But really, 

what is this ditty we’ve known-but-not-known our entire lives? According to Wikipedia, the title is literally translated to modern English as “old long since” but might be more appropriately interpreted as “for the sake of old times” as we use the song now. Robert Burns, the gifted Scottish poet I already mentioned, wrote the song in 1788 — but even a full Burns credit is iffy. The phrase “auld lang syne” appeared in similar and earlier works by Robert Ayton, Allan Ramsay and James Watson. Further, the entire first verse might be entirely attributed to Watson, even though Burns firmly has the rest of the tune tied up in his name and is widely considered to have more or less finessed the tune into the version we know today.
  As a person whose family hails from that part of the world, I find it curiously comforting the roots of these simple folk songs are at once clear yet muddled, straightforward yet complicated — kind of like the lands and peoples which inspired them. I like to think the independent and contrary character of the Celts is similar to the independent and contrary spirit found in the Pacific Northwest.
  So as we say “last call” and bid farewell to 2019, channel your Celtic spirit and lift your glass of Northwest spirits to toast the new year with “Auld Lang Syne” and maybe even “The Parting Glass.” I’ve provided the lyrics to both here (you can find many excellent performances of both on YouTube — check out the 2013 Derry version of The Parting Glass Shaun Davey wrote and performed for choir and orchestra).
  I chose “Last Call” for the name of this column but “The Parting Glass” was a close second. Come to think of it, if “Auld Lang Syne” hadn’t become so inextricably linked with this one holiday, it could’ve served as a column title, too. At least I hope Robert Burns would’ve approved.

Happy New Year!
 

O, all the money e’er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that ever I’ve done,
alas it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
to mem’ry now I can’t recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be to you all.

O, all the comrades e’er I had,
They’re sorry for my going away.
And all the sweethearts e’er I had,
They’d wished me one more day to stay.


But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,


I gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be to you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile.
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own, she has my heart in thrall;
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be to you all.

THE PARTING GLASS

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

 

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
 

AULD LANG SYNE

© 2019 CHEERS NORTHWEST