HELD in the Roman Catholic Church as the festival of Circumcisio Domini; observed as a feast in the Church of England on the same account. In the Roman Church, the following saints are honoured on this day: St Fulgentius, bishop and confessor; St Odilo or Olou, sixth abbot of Cluni; St Almachus, martyr; St Eugendus, abbot; St Faine or Fanchea, virgin, of Ireland; St Mochua or Moncain, alias Claunus, abbot in Ireland; and St Mochua, alias Cronan, of Balla, abbot in Ireland.
Born. – Edmund Burke, 1730, Dublin; Francis Earl of Ellesmere, 1800.
Died. – Louis XII. of France, 1515.
FRANCIS, EARL OF ELLESMERE.
There is something in Johnson’s remark, that personal merits in a man of high rank deserve to be ‘handsomely acknowledged.’ Sure of homage on account of birth and means, it must be unusually good impulses which lead him to study, to useful arts, or to administrative business. The second son of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, destined to an immense collateral inheritance, the Earl of Ellesmere devoted himself to elegant literature – in which his own efforts were far above mediocrity – to the patronage of the ennobling arts, and to disinterested duty in the public service. The benevolence of his nature led him in early life, as a member of the House of Commons, to lean to a liberal class of measures which were then little patronised, but the benefits of which were afterwards realised. At a time, moreover, when few were thinking much of the tastes and gratifications of the great body of the people, Lord Ellesmere prepared a splendid picture gallery which he made easily accessible to the public. This amiable nobleman died on the 18th February 1857.
LOUIS XII. OF FRANCE.
He was one of the few sovereigns of France who were entirely estimable. He was sober, sweet-natured, modest, laborious, loved knowledge, was filled with sentiments of honour, religion, and benevolence. He strove by economy to keep down the amount of the public burdens, and when his frugal habits were ridiculed in the theatre, he said laughingly that he would rather have people amused by his stinginess than groan under his prodigality. He held as a principle that the justice of a prince obliged him to owe nothing, rather than his greatness to give much. It was rare indeed to find such correct ideas regarding the use and value of money in those days.
The first wife of Louis XII. Being dead, he married, at fifty-three, a second and youthful spouse, the Princess Mary, sister of Henry VIII., and did not outlive the event three months. His widow returned to her own country, and married her first lover, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.
CORONATION OF CHARLES II. AT SCONE, 1651.
On the 1st of January 1651, the son of Charles I. was crowned as Charles II. By the Scots at Scone, the southern part of the country being occupied at the time by Cromwell with a hostile army. The extreme measure of cutting off the late king and extinguishing the monarchy was generally disapproved of in Scotland; but in taking up the young king, the Scots were chiefly animated by a desire of preserving and advancing their favourite Presbyterian church arrangements, according to the spirit of the famous Solemn League and Covenant. Charles who was then only twenty, being anxious to get a footing in his father’s lost dominions, consented, much against his will, to accept this Covenant, which inferred an active persecution of both popery and prelacy; and the Scots accordingly received him amongst them, fought a battle for him against Cromwell at Dunbar, and now crowned him. A sermon was preached on the occasion by Mr Robert Douglas, who had the reputation (but upon no just grounds) of being a descendant of Mary queen of Scots. The crown was put upon the young king’s head by the Marquis of Argyle, whom ten years after he sent to the scaffold for compliances with Cromwell. The defeat of the Scots and their young king at Worcester on the 3d September of this year put an end to Charles’s adventure, and he with difficulty escaped out of the country. How he subsequently treated the Covenant and its adherents need not here be particularised.
MARCH OF GENERAL MONK FROM COLDSTREAM.
On the 1st of January 1660, General Monk commenced that march from Scotland to London which was so instrumental in effecting the Restoration. He started with his little army of six or seven thousand men from the town of Coldstream, in Berwickshire – a name which has been commemorated in the title of a regiment which he is believed to have embodied at the place, or soon after. Monk had spent about three weeks at Coldstream, which was a favourable spot for his purpose, as the Tweed was there fordable; but he seems to have found it a dismal place to quarter in. On his first arrival, he could get no provisions for his own dinner, and was obliged to content himself with a quid of tobacco. His chaplains, less easily satisfied, roamed about till they obtained a meal at the house of the Earl of Hume near by. – Monk, a Historical Study, by M. Guizot, translated by J. Stuart Wortley, 1838.
UNION OF IRELAND WITH GREAT BRITAIN, 1801.
On the 1st of January 1801 – the initial day of the nineteenth century – Ireland passed into an incorporating union with Great Britain, and the three kingdoms were thenceforth styled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The expression, ‘initial day of the nineteenth century,’ requires something to be said in its defence, for many persons regard the year 1800 as the beginning of the present century. The year 1801 is, in reality, entitled to this honour, because then only had the previous century been completed. To make this plain, let the reader reflect that it required the year 100 to be complete the first century, the year 200 to complete the second century, and so on through all that followed. To say, then, that the year 1800 was the first of a new century, is to be led by sound, instead of fact.
NEW YEAR’S DAY FESTIVITIES.
‘Long ere the lingering dawn of that blithe morn
Which ushers in the year, the roosting cock,
Flapping his wings, repeats his larum shrill;
But on that morn no busy flail obeys
His rousing call; no sounds but sounds of joy
Salute the year – the first-foot’s entering step,
That sudden on the floor is welcome heard,
Ere blushing maids have braided up their hair;
The laugh, the hearty kiss, the good new year
Pronounced with honest warmth. In village, grange,
And borough town, the steaming flagon, borne
From house to house, elates the poor man’s heart,
And makes him feel that life has still its joys.
The aged and the young, man, woman, child,
Unite in social glee; even stranger dogs,
Meeting with bristling back, soon lay aside
Their snarling aspect, and in sportive chase,
Excursive scour, or wallow in the snow.
With sober cheerfulness, the grandam eyes
Her offspring round her, all in health and peace;
And, thankful that she’s spared to see this day
Return once more, breathes low a secret prayer,
That God would shed a blessing on their heads.’
As New-Year’s Day, the first of January bears a prominent place in the popular calendar. It has ever been a custom among northern nations to see the old year out and the new one in, with the highest demonstrations of merriment and conviviality. To but a few does it seem to occur that the day is a memorandum of the subtraction of another year from the little sum of life; with the multitude, the top feeling is a desire to express good wishes for the next twelvemonths’ experience of their friends, and be the subject of similar benevolence no the part of others, and to see this interchange of cordial feeling take place, as far as possible, in festive circumstances. Very frequently, too, persons nearly related but living apart, dine with each other on this day, to keep alive and cultivate mutual good feeling. It cannot be doubted that a custom of this kind must tend to obliterate any shades of dissatisfaction or jealous anger, that may have arisen during the previous year, and send the kindred onward through the next with renewed esteem and regard. To the same good purpose works the old custom of giving little presents among friends on this day.
One could wish that the genial Elia had added something in recommendation of resolutions of improvement of the year to come, for which New-Year’s Day is surely a most appropriate time, ‘Every first of January that we arrive at, is an imaginary milestone on the turnpike track of human life: at once a resting-place for thought and meditation, and a starting point for fresh exertion in the performance of our journey. The man who does not at least propose to himself to be better this year than he was last, must be either very good or very bad indeed! And only to propose to be better, is something; if nothing else, it is an acknowledgment of our need to be so, which is the first step towards amendment. But, in fact, to propose to oneself to do well, is in some sort to do well, positively; for there is no such thing as a stationary point in human endeavours; he who is not worse to-day than he was yesterday, is better; and he who is not better, is worse.’1
The custom of wassail at the New Year was kept up in the monasteries as well as in private houses. In front of the abbot, at the upper end of the refectory table, was placed the mighty bowl styled in their language Poculum Caritatis, and from it the superior drank to all, and all drank in succession to each other.2
Till very few years ago in Scotland, the custom of the wassail bowl at the passing away of the old year might be said to be still in comparative vigour. On the approach of twelve o’clock, a hot pint was prepared – that is, a kettle or flagon full of warm, spiced, and sweetened ale, with an infusion of spirits.3 When the clock had struck the knell of the departed year, each member of the family drank of this mixture ‘A good health and a happy New Year and many of them’ to all the rest, with a general hand-shaking, and perhaps a dance round the table, with the addition of a song to the tune of Hey tuttie taitie:
‘Weel may we a’ be,
Ill may we never see,
Here’s to the king
And the gude companie!’ &c.
The elders of the family would then most probably sally out, with the hot kettle, and bearing also a competent provision of buns and shortbread, or bread and cheese, with the design of visiting their neighbours, and interchanging with them the same cordial greetings. If they met by the way another party similarly bent, whom they knew, they would stop and give and take sips from their respective kettles. Reaching the friend’s house, they would enter with vociferous good wishes, and soon send the kettle a-circulating. If they were the first to enter the house since twelve o’clock, they were deemed as the first-foot; and, as such, it was most important, for luck to the family in the coming year, that they should make their entry, not empty-handed, but with their hands full of cakes and bread and cheese; of which, on the other hand, civility demanded that each individual in the house should partake.
To such an extent did this custom prevail in Edinburgh in the recollection of persons still living, that, according to their account, the principal streets were more thronged between twelve and one in the morning than they usually were at midday. Much innocent mirth prevailed, and mutual good feelings were largely promoted. An unlucky circumstance, which took place on the 1st of January of 1812, proved the means of nearly extinguishing the custom. A small party of reckless boys formed the design of turning the innocent festivities of first-footing to account for purposes of plunder. They kept their counsel well. No sooner had the people come abroad on the principal thoroughfares of the Old Town, than these youths sallied out in small bands, and commenced the business which they had undertaken. Their previous agreement was, to look out for the white neckcloths, – such being the best mark by which they could distinguish in the dark individuals likely to carry any property worthy of being taken. A great number of gentlemen were thus spoiled of their watches and other valuables. The least resistance was resented by the most brutal maltreatment. A policeman, and a young man of the rank of a clerk in Leith, died of the injuries they had received. An affair so singular, so uncharacteristic of the people among whom it happened, produced a widespread and lasting feeling of surprise. The outrage was expiated by the execution of three of the youthful rioters on the chief scene of their wickedness; but from that time, it was observed that the old custom of going about with the hot pint – the ancient wassail – fell off.
There was in Scotland a first-footing independent of the hot-pint. It was a time for some youthful friend of the family to steal to the door, in the hope of meeting there the young maiden of his fancy, and obtaining the privilege of a kiss, as her first-foot. Great was the disappointment on his part, and great the joking among the family, if through accident or plan, some half-withered aunt or ancient grand-dame came to receive him instead of the blooming Jenny.
It may safely be said that New-Year’s Day has hitherto been observed in Scotland with a heartiness nowhere surpassed. It almost appears as if by a sort of antagonism to the general gravity of the people, they were impelled to break out in a half-mad merriment on this day. Every face was bright with smiles; every hand ready with the grasp of friendship. All stiffness arising from age, profession, and rank, gave way. The soberest felt entitled to take a licence on that special day. Reunions of relatives very generally took place over the festive board, and thus many little family differences were obliterated. At the present time, the ancient practices are somewhat decayed; yet the First of January is far from being reduced to the level of other days.
1 Mirror of the Months.
2 Archæologia, xi. 420.
3 Receipt for Making the Wassail Bowl. – Simmer a small quantity of the following spices in a teacupful of water, viz.: Cardamums, cloves, nutmeg, mace, ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. When done, put the spice to two, four, or six bottles of port, sherry, or madeira, with one pound and a half of fine loaf sugar (pounded) to four bottles, and set all on the fire in a clean bright saucepan; meanwhile, have yolks of 12 and the whites of 6 eggs well whisked up in it, Then, when the spiced and sugared wine is a little warm, take out one teacupful; and so on for three or four cups; after which, when it boils, add the whole of the remainder, pouring it in gradually, and stirring it briskly all the time, so as to froth it. The moment a fine froth is obtained, toss in 12 fine soft roasted apples, and send it up hot. Spices for each bottle of wine:- 10 grains of mace, 46 grains of cloves, 37 grains of cardamums, 28 grains of cinnamon, 12 grains of nutmeg, 48 grains of ginger, 49 grains of coriander seeds. – Mark Lane Express.
On This Day from Other Sources.
JAMES V., MARRIES MADELEINE, DAUGHTER OF THE FRENCH KING.
From thence [James V.] goes to Paris, where he is solemnly welcomed by the French King [Francis I.] with all public expressions of love and amity; and he falls in love with the Lady [Madeleine], eldest daughter to the French King, and to her is [engaged], and shortly thereafter married in the beginning of this year, 1536, at Paris, in the church of Notre Dame, the first day of January , in presence of 2 Kings, 7 Cardinals, a very great number of Princes, Dukes, Marquises, Earls and Lords of diverse nations.
– Historical Works, p.265.
WARFARE ON THE STREETS OF EDINBURGH.
A truce which had been made between Morton and Kirkaldy expired on the 1st of January, 1573, and as the church bells tolled six in the morning, the Castle guns, among which were two 48-pounders, French battardes, and English culverins or 18-pounders (according to the “Memoirs of Kirkaldy,”) opened on the city in the dark. It was then full of adherents of James VI., so Kirkaldy cared not where his shot fell, after the warning gun had been previously discharged, that all loyal subjects of the queen should retire. As the ‘grey winter dawn stole in, over spire and pointed roof, the cannonade was chiefly directed from the eastern curtain against the new Fish Market; the baskets in which were beaten so high in the air, that for days after their contents were seen scattered on the tops of the highest houses. In one place a single shot killed five persons and wounded twenty others.
– Old and New Edinburgh, p.47.
REGENT MORTON ARRESTED FOR REGICIDE.
On the first of January, this year, 1580, James Douglas, Earl of Morton, Sometime Regent of Scotland, was imprisoned in Edinburgh castle. The alleged cause was the concealing the murder [of] the King’s father [Darnley]; and about the end of this same month, he was removed thence to the castle of Dumbarton.
– Historical Works, p.370.
JANUARY 1ST BECOMES NEW YEAR’S DAY.
Till this time, the new year legally held in Scotland was that pitched upon in the sixth century by Dionysius Exiguus when he introduced the Christian era – the 25th of March, or day of the Annunciation. King James, probably looking upon the approaching year 1600 as the beginning of a new century, thought it would be a good occasion for bringing Scotland into a conformity with other countries in respect of New-year’s Day. There was therefore passed this day at Holyrood an act of Privy Council, in which it is set forth that ‘in all other weel-governit commonwealths and countries, the year begins yearly upon the first of January, commonly called New-year’s Day, and that this realm only is different frae all others in the count and reckoning of the years;’ for which reason they ordained that, in all time coming, Scotland shall conform to this usage, and that the next first of January shall be the first day of the year of God 1600.*
– Domestic Annals, pp.156-157.
* This is why dates between January and March have the year designated as 1546-7, as Robert Chambers himself does throughout this book. George Chalmers does it throughout his ‘Life of Mary, Queen of Scots‘ too. Chambers also writes here in his ‘Book of Days’ (1886) for the month of January,
“Although, however, there was a general popular regard to the 1st of January as the beginning of the year, the ancient Jewish year, which opened with the 25th of March, continued long to have a legal position in Christian countries. In England, it was not till 1752 that the 1st of January became the initial day of the legal, as it had long been of the popular year. Before that time, it was customary to set down dates between the 1st of January and the 24th of March inclusive, thus: January 30, 1648-9: meaning, that popularly the year was 1649, but legally 1648. In Scotland, this desirable change was made by a decree of James VI. in privy council, in the year 1600. It was effected in France in 1564; in Holland, Protestant Germany, and Russia, in 1700; and in Sweden in 1753.”
NEIGHBOURS FROM HELL.
At no great distance from the castle of Strathbogie – the modern Huntly – where the great marquis held state, dwelt two gentlemen of figure, Gordon of Rothiemay and Crichton of Frendraught. In consequence of a dispute about the salmon-fishings in the Doveran, these two gentlemen fell into litigation and bad blood; and at length, finding Rothiemay obdurate, Frendraught had to get assistance from his neighbours to execute the laws upon his antagonist. On New-year’s Day 1630, a bloody encounter took place between them, and Rothiemay was so severely wounded as to die three days after.
– Domestic Annals, pp.237-238.
Part of Gordon’s lands which marched with those of Crichton, were purchased by the latter; but a dispute having occurred about the right to the salmon fishings belonging to these lands, an irreconcilable difference arose between them, which no interference of friends could reconcile, although the matter in dispute was of little moment. The parties having had recourse to the law to settle their respective claims, Crichton prevailed, and succeeded in getting Gordon denounced rebel. He had previously treated Rothiemay very harshly, who, stung by the severity of his opponent, and by the victory he had obtained over him, would listen to no proposals of peace, nor follow the advice of his best friends. Determined to set the law at defiance, he collected a number of loose and disorderly characters, and annoyed Frendraught, who, in consequence, applied for, and obtained a commission from the privy council for apprehending Rothiemay and his associates. In the execution of this task, he was assisted by Sir George Ogilvy of Banff, George Gordon, brother-german of Sir James Gordon of Lesmoir, and the uncle of Frendraught, James Leslie, second son of Leslie of Pitcaple, John Meldrum of Reidhill, and others. Accompanied by these gentlemen, Crichton left his house of Frendraught on the first day of January, sixteen hundred and thirty, for the house of Rothiemay, with a resolution either to apprehend Gordon, his antagonist, or to set him at defiance by affronting him. He was incited the more to follow this course, as young Rothiemay, at the head of a party, had come a short time before to the very doors of Frendraught, and had braved him to his face. When Rothiemay heard of the advance of Frendraught, he left his house, accompanied by his eldest son, John Gordon, and about eight men on horseback armed with guns and lances, and a party of men on foot with muskets, and crossing the river Deveron, he went forward to meet Frendraught and his party. A sharp conflict immediately took place, in which Rothiemay’s horse was killed under him, who being unprovided with another, fought manfully, for some time, on foot, until the whole of his party, with the exception of his son, were forced to retire. The son, notwithstanding, continued to support his father against fearful odds, but was, at last, obliged to save himself by flight, leaving his father lying on the field covered with wounds, and supposed to be dead. He, however, was found still alive after the conflict was over, and being carried home to his house died within three days thereafter. George Gordon, brother of Gordon of Lesmoir, received a shot in the thigh, and died in consequence, ten days after the skirmish. These were the only deaths which occurred, although several of the combatants, on both sides, were wounded. John Meldrum, who fought on Fendraught’s side, was the only person severely wounded.
– History of the Highlands, pp.287-313.
LAST KING CROWNED AT SCONE.
Charles II., when on his expedition into Scotland, was, on January 1st, 1651, the subject of the last Scone coronation; and he made the occasion memorable by the facility with which he seemed to gulp down ‘the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland,’ and the cool nonchalance with which he afterwards disgorged it in the face of a fond and confiding people who had hailed him as “a covenanted king.”
– Scotland Illustrated, p.11.
PLAGUE WON’T PREVENT A PARTY
Jan. 1. – Although the preceding had been, according to Nicoll, ‘a dangerous, cruel, and bloody year,’ and though at this time an order stood forbidding commerce with the plague-stricken south, yet, ‘upon the 1st day of January 1666, there was as much drinking and carousing as in former times.’
– Domestic Annals, p.314.
AN AFTER EFFECT OF THE ’45 REBELLION.
“The substance of the speeches made by way of reply in the debate upon the bill for abolishing the hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland, &c.
Whilst Scotland remained a separate kingdom, I do not at all wonder, that these jurisdictions were always so numerous, and had such an influence in their parliaments, that no man could hope for the success of any motion tending to such a purpose: but this was a difficulty no man could apprehend in a British parliament; and therefore I must suppose, Sir, that the continuance of these hereditary jurisdictions is more owing to our inattention to the affairs of Scotland than to any man’s being in doubt as to the bad consequences of these jurisdictions, both with respect to the people subject to them, and with respect to the publick tranquillity. The danger we were lately in from Scotland has raised our attention; and, now it is raised, whatever was the cause of the late rebellion, I hope, that for our own sakes, as well as for the sake of the poor people in Scotland, we shall take care not to leave it in the power of any great lord in Scotland, to compel the whole people of a county or other district to follow him into a rebellion, tho’ most of them be neither disaffected tom nor dissatisfied with the supreme government of their country; which, I am afraid, was not the case at the time the late rebellion was begun…”
– Scots Magazine, 1st January, 1748.
– Treaty of Union Articles, 1700-1750.
FIRST FOOTING – A SCOTTISH NEW YEAR TRADITION.
“THE FIRST FOOT: A SCOTTISH CUSTOM ON NEW-YEAR’S EVE.”
As you can see from the clock in the picture, however, it’s done after midnight into the early hours of New Year’s day, rather than on the eve of New Year.
– Illustrated London News, 30 Dec 1882.
Associated Words from Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary.
GYSAR, GYSARD, s. 1. A harlequin; a term applied to those who disguise themselves about the time of New-Year, S. gysart. Maitl. P. 2. One whose looks are disfigured by age, or otherwise, S. Journal Lond.
HET PINT. The hot beverage which young people carry with them from house to house early in the morning of the new-year; used also on the night preceding a marriage, and at the time of child-bearing, S. Morison.
HET STOUP. Het Pint, S. J. Nicol.
LAY–FITTIT, adj. Having the sole of the foot quite plain or flat, without any spring in it, and also much turned out, Fife, Loth. Scleetin-fitted, Caithn. This is viewed as corresponding with E. Splay-footed, as given by Baily, “One who treads his toes much outward.” The superstitious view it as an evil-omen, if the first fit, i.e. the first person who calls, or who is met in the beginning of the New Year, or when one sets out on a journey, or engages in any business, should happen to be lay-fittit.
NEW-YEAR‘S–DAY. Among the superstitions connected with this day, the following keeps its place in Ayrs. “She was removed from mine to Abraham’s bosom on Christmas day, and buried on Hogmanae; for it was thought uncanny to have a dead corpse in the house on the New-year’s-day.” Annals Par.
PLOTTIE, s. A rich and pleasant hot drink. Boil some cinnamon, nutmeg grated, cloves and mace, in a quarter pint of water; add to this a full pint of port wine, with refined sugar to taste; bring the whole to the boiling point, and serve. Cook and Housewife’s Manual. [Similar to the Het Pint recipe?]
Auld Lang Syne, &c.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
SHOULD auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
Poetry of Robert Burns (1896), ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ Vol. 3, pp.147-149.
‘Scottish Students’ Song Book’ (1897), ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ pp.318-319.
‘Songs of Scotland Prior to Burns’ (1880), ‘Old Long Syne’ & ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ pp.274-280.
Notes on Auld Lang Syne.
No. 413 in Johnson (Vol. v. 1796): signed ‘Z.’ Included in Thomson (Vol. ii.), from a MS. in the Editor’s possession.
Sent to Mrs. Dunlop, 17th December 1788:- ‘Apropos, is not the Scotch phrase Auld Langsyne exceedingly expressive? There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul,’ etc. To Thomson he wrote:- ‘One song more and I have done – “Auld Lang Syne.” The air is but mediocre; but the following song – the 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’s singing, is enough to recommend any air.’ Thomson in Scottish Airs expressed the opinion that Burns thus wrote ‘merely in a playful humour.’ It may also be that the story was a device to make sure that he (Thomson) would accept a piece which the writer was far too modest to describe as his own improvement on the earlier sets, the one published in Watson (1711), the other credited to Allan Ramsay. But, after all, it is by no means impossible that he really got the germ of his set as he says he did. The oldest, as given in Watson, is in two parts:-
‘Should old acquaintance be forgot
And never thought upon,
The Flames of Love extinguished
And freely past and gone?
Is thy kind Heart now grown so cold
In that Loving Breast of thine
That thou can’st never once reflect
On Old-long-syne?’ etc.
It is usually attributed to Francis Sempill; but the broadside from which Watson got it, and of which there is a copy (probably unique) in the Laing Collection at Dalmeny, is headed thus: ‘An Excellent and proper new ballad, entitled Old Long Syne. Newly corrected and amended, with a large and new edition of several excellent love lines.’ The title is important, as indicating the existence of an older set; and that Burns either knew the set, or had seen this said broadside, is clear, since, instead of the mere refrain of ‘old long-syne,’ as in Watson, it has this burden:-
‘On old long syne,
On old long syne, my jo,
On old long syne:
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.’
The Ramsay derivative also takes the form of a love-song, in which a lady, by way of greeting her hero newly home from the wars, inquires:-
‘Should old acquaintance be forgot
Though they return with scars?’:-
and, concluding that they shouldn’t, goes on to cry:-
‘Welcome, my Varo, to my breast,
Thy arms about me twine;
And make me once again as blest
As I was lang syne.’
After divers reflections, which attest her acquaintance with poets and ‘politic authors,’ she concludes her incantation thus irresistibly:-
‘O’er moor and dale with your gay friend
You may pursue the chase,
And after a blythe bottle end
All cares in my embrace.
And in a vacant rainy day
You shall be wholly mine;
We’ll make the hours run smooth away
And laugh at lang syne.’
The hero, perceiving that her intentions are strictly honourable, assents; and the piece concludes with a wedding in the wigmaking poet’s best full-bottom style.
Two anti-Union ballads (1707), to the tune of Old Long Syne, are in the Roxburghe Collection. One is a parody of the earlier set:-
‘Shall Monarchy be quite forgot,
And of it no more heard?
Antiquity be razèd out
And slav’ry put in stead?
Is Scotsmen’s blood now grown so cold,
The valour of their mind,
That they can never once reflect
On old long sine?’
The other, O Caledon, O Caledon, which Mr. Ebsworth regards as unique, is in the Laing Collection as well. It was known to George Lockhart (1673-1731), and was published in The Lockhart Papers (1817). There is, besides. a Jacobite ballad on similar lines (and slightly Bacchanalian, like the Burns set), in The True Loyalist (1779):-
‘Should old gay mirth and cheerfulness
Be dashed for evermore?’ etc.
Scott Douglas mentions a parody by Burns:-
‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never thought upon?
Let’s hae a waught o’ Malaga
For auld lang syne.’
In the Thomson version – MS. at Brechin Castle – Stanza II. of our text, and Johnson’s, comes last.
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