Pages edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli Look at the Literary World

An excerpt from the book Pages edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli a look at the literary world of writers and writing, a look at Auld Lang Syne.

PAGES. Matthew J. Bruccoli, Editorial Director. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1976.

About the Book: The editors of Pages believe that the average reader has been cut off from the world of writers and writing. Pages is an attempt to rectify this situation. Some of the facets of the literary world that various authors explore are how to design a dust jacket and how to write for TV ("don't"). Notes from the diary of the first managing editor of Life, on the birth of that magazine, are also included. Authors of the articles range from James Dickey and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Ray Bradbury and Ring Lardner. The volume is lavishly illustrated with photostats of many original manuscripts. This is a book for collectors--both inside and outside of the literary world.

From the Book:

"Auld Lang Syne" has become the song of friendship and parting, particularly in the English-speaking world, although it is also sung throughout most of Europe and in places as distant as India and Japan. The words are associated in the popular mind with Robert Burns, but there are earlier, inferior versions; one of these was taken from a broadside and published by William Watson in his Choice Collection of Comic and Serious Scots Poems (1711). Another appeared in a work which Burns knew well, Allan Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany, an immensely popular compilation of songs which was published in four volumes between 1723 and 1737, with "Auld Lang Syne" contained in the first volume.

These earlier songs bear little resemblance to that which Burns fashioned. In fact the only elements common to all of them are the line "Should auld acquaintance be forgot" and the expression "auld lang syne." The poet was somewhat vague about his knowledge of these earlier versions, claiming at one point that the work had "never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down from an old man's singing," and adding the comment to the version published [in Pages], "Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired Poet who composed this Fragment!" Elsewhere in the letter in which this comment appears Burns speaks of it as "an old song & tune which has often thrilled thro' my soul." Finally we have a comment by Burns about Ramsay's version of the song. "The original and by much the best set of words of this song is as follows:" and the poet proceeds to copy his own words.

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