Archive for River Nith

Auld Lang Syne

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on January 8, 2011 by stflyfisher

I might as well have been named after him for the countless misspellings of my last name. Most know this man – Scotland’s favorite son, the Ploughman poet, and The Bard of Ayrshire – not so much by his poems but by the Scottish folk song, Auld Lang Syne.

Kilt-wearing namesake?

Robert Burns is said to have collected some of the lyrics of this song from an old Scot and then composed other parts himself. For those who have tried to sing it whilst imbibing in champagne and bringing in the New Year, here’s the English translation:

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.


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


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


This great work poses a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that old times be forgotten. And while 2010 was certainly not the year I thought it would be, I choose to not forget the past and remember those good days on the water and with fellow flyfishers as I wade down the river of life. To wit:

* Watching a smallmouth bass chase a crayfish in the shallows. The often acrobatic crawdad fled his big burly predator and I’m assuming, lived to see another season on the Tioughnioga…

* Hooking a big carp while bass fishing on the Tioughnioga and fighting him across and then up the river, only to have the hook pull…

* Meeting “Tom” at the angler’s access as Dan and I finished up fishing on the Loyalsock. His story about barnstorming turkeys in Alabama still has me rolling…

* Fishing some pretty little Pennsylvania creeks, such as this one.

* Following the advice of a Delaware River guide and coming up with pay dirt

* Fly fishing for smallmouth on the Susquehanna and almost landing a nice muskie in the process…

* Fighting a nice bass on the Chenango and watching a bigger bass following him in!

* Meeting “JP” of JP Ross Fly Rods and Artie Loomis at the 2010 Fly Tying Symposium in Utica, NY.

Life should be held close and kept dear and of all people who’ve roamed this good earth, I’m sure Robert Burns would agree. He died at the young age of 37 but he lived the years he was given fully and wrote prolifically, even while struggling to make a go at farming to support his family and his writing. The fact that he fathered 9 children in his marriage and others outside of marriage certainly didn’t help his financial situation (to which my grandfather would have commented; “he should have danced all night”). At least he did have the sense to lease a farm at Ellisland, through which the River Nith flows. There’s no evidence the Scot poet ever fished the river, known now for a nice run of Atlantic Salmon, but it’s lovely waters didn’t completely escape his eye. Burns is reported to have written to a friend: “The banks of the Nith are as sweet poetic ground as any I ever saw”.

The River Nith at Ellisland Farm.

Robert Burns wrote over 130 songs and poems – a staggering 25% of his short life’s output – in the 3 years that he lived at Ellisland and among these works was Auld Lang Syne. He sold his lease at Ellisland in 1791, finding the farmland’s stony, infertile, poorly dressed and badly drained soil too challenging to make a profit, and died 5 years later of rheumatism.

Mmmmm - Scotch, Haggis, and Auld Lang Syne...

I’ll close this with another version of Auld Lang Syne, a favorite of mine, attributed to James Watson (1711). Here’s to past days upstream, and to better days downriver…

Should old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.

On Old long syne my Jo,
in Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne.


Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
will not thy presence yield relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially when I reflect
on Old long syne


Hold life close and dear, my friends. Tight Lines, and Happy New Year…