Music Monday: Before There Was Auld Lang Syne

Since this is my last Music Monday of the year, I thought I’d share a traditional year-end song.

Today, many people associate the great song, Auld Lang Syne, with New Year’s Eve.

It is a Scottish song written by Robert Burns in the late 1700s.

But did you know that there is another traditional Irish/Scottish farewell song that seems to predate Auld Lang Syne, and has been covered by The Pogues, Ed Sheeran, and The Clancy Brothers, to name a few?

That song is The Parting Glass.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

The Parting Glass” is a Scottish traditional song, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. It has also long been sung in Ireland, enjoying considerable popularity to this day and strongly influencing the style in which it is often now sung. It was purportedly the most popular parting song sung in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote “Auld Lang Syne”. 

The “parting glass”, or “stirrup cup”, was the final hospitality offered to a departing guest. Once they had mounted, they were presented one final drink to fortify them for their travels. The custom was practiced in several continental countries.

It was known at least as early as 1605, when a portion of the first stanza was written in a farewell letter, as a poem now known as “Armstrong’s Goodnight”.

There were many wonderful versions to choose from, but I have gone with one from the High Kings, an Irish group formed in 2008. Any song with bagpipes gets two thumbs up from me 🙂

I have included the lyrics after the video.

Of all the money that e’er I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm I’ve ever 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

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befall,
And gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

Of all the comrades that e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I had
They’d wish 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
Good night 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 with you all.

A man may drink and not be drunk
A man may fight and not be slain
A man may court a pretty girl
And perhaps be welcomed back again
But since it has so ought to be
By a time to rise and a time to fall
Come fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all

*image from Irish Music Daily

53 thoughts on “Music Monday: Before There Was Auld Lang Syne

  1. I like it better than our traditional song, although the lyrics are more difficult to remember. No one can forget the words, “I know a man, his name is Lang, and he has a neon sign, and Mr. Lang is very old, so we call it Old Lang’s Sign.”

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      1. It was like a who’s who of contemporary Irish musicians, all the more special for being part of an evening celebrating Irish culture for the State Visit of their President. Patty’s version is beautifully performed but, as she is German, it lacks either a Scottish or Irish feel. It’s still good, though.

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      2. We got to meet the PResident of Ireland a few years ago, since she was the recipient of an honorary degree from Villanova. I was able to bring my Mom and Aunt as well. Since they were born in Ireland, it was quite special for them…

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  2. I’m a fan of the song and love the tradition of sharing a parting glass with a friend (as long as they’re still safe to drive.)

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