...which is Scots dialect for "old(auld) long(lang) since(syne)," or the times that have faded and the days that are no more.
A friend's message board post got me thinking about the song, which will doubtlessly be played innumerable times around the world this evening. While I'm sure that I first heard it, as so many of us did, on radio and TV as played by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, I really got into learning about OLS when as a teenager I found that it was a poem by Robert Burns, the most venerated writer in Scotland's history of distinguished writers and certainly for his verse in English one of the great poets of our language.
For aficionados of Irish and Scots folk music (or novels - think Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott), all the braes and aulds in the lyric don't pose much or a problem, and most of Burns' poem is in very comprehensible English. However - through the magic of Wikipedia and a computer snipping tool with a bow to Photobucket - here is the full poem and translation into our modern tongue:
So in sum - addressing a very dear longtime friend in the first verse, our speaker asks rhetorically, "Should we ever forget about the long-gone friends and times? Should we let 'the dead past bury its past'?" In answer to his or her own question, the speaker answers emphatically "No!" in the chorus - "For all the old times, we'll drink many a toast now and in times to come to remember the days of long ago." The remaining verses reminisce about the friendship between speaker and listener, and the lyric concludes with a pledge of eternal friendship.
And here are two of the many fine versions of the song on YouTube. First, somewhat as the tune would have been heard before Burns' poem was set to it, the pipes (with orchestra and some great pictures):
And who better to sing the song than one of Scotland's great folk performers, Dougie MacLean:
May we all ne'er forget the days of old long since as we charge bravely in what we all hope and believe will be a great 2012!