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"An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain!
Home, Home! Sweet, sweet Home!
There's no place like Home!
There's no place like Home!"1
The audience were moved to tears. Even Daniel Webster, stern man of law, lost control of himself and wept like a child.
Payne's later life was not altogether a happy one, and he felt some resentment against the world, although it may not have been justified. He was unmarried, but was no more homeless than most bachelors. He exiled himself voluntarily from his own country, and so lost much of the delightful result of his own early popularity. He may have been reduced to privation and suffering, but it was not for long at a time. Some writers have sought to heighten effect by making the author of the greatest song of home a homeless wanderer. The truth is that Payne's unhappiness was largely the result of his own peculiarities. He was given to poetic exaggeration, for there is now known to be little stern fact in the following oft-quoted writing of himself:
"How often have I been in the heart of Paris, Berlin, London or some other city, and have heard persons singing or hand organs playing Sweet Home without having a shilling to buy myself the next meal or a place to lay my head! The world has literally sung my song until every heart is familiar with its melody, yet I have been a wanderer from my boyhood. My country has turned me ruthlessly from office and in my old age I have to submit to humiliation for my bread."
1. Capitals and punctuation as written by Payne.
Upon his own request he was appointed United States consul at Tunis, and after being removed from that office continued to reside there until his death. He was buried in Saint George's Cemetery in Tunis, and there his bodv rested for more than thirty years, until W. W. Corcoran, a wealthy resident of Washington, had it disinterred, brought to this country and buried in the beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery near Washington. There a white marble shaft surmounted by a bust of the poet marks his last home. On one side of the shaft is the inscription:
John Howard Payne,
Author of "Home, Sweet Home."
Born June 9, 1792. Died April 9, 1852.
On the other side is chiseled this stanza:
"Sure when thy gentle spirit fled
To realms above the azure dome,
With outstretched arms God's angels said
Welcome to Heaven's Home, Sweet Home."
Much sentiment has been wasted over Payne, who was really not a great poet and whose lack of stamina prevented him from grasping the power already in his hand. We should remember, too, that the astonishing popularity of Home, Sweet Home is doubtless due more to the glorious melody of the air, probably composed by some unknown Sicilian, than to the wording of the two stanzas.
When we study the verses themselves we see that the first three lines are rather fine, but the fourth line is clumsy and matter-of-fact compared with the others. In the second stanza "lowly thatched cottage" may be a poetic description, but the home longing is not confined to people who have lived in thatched cottages. Tame singing birds are interesting, but home stands for higher and holier things. All he asks for are a thatched cottage, singing birds and peace of mind: a curious group of things. The fourth line of that stanza is unmusical and inharmonious.
These facts make us see that what really has made the song so dear to us is its sweet music and the powerful emotion that seizes us all when we think of the home of our childhood.
AULD LANG SYNE*
By Robert Burns
Note.—The song as we know it is not the first song to bear that title, nor is it entirely original with Robert Burns. It is said that the second and third stanzas were written by him, but that the others were merely revised. In a letter to a friend, written in 1793, Burns says, "The air (of Auld Lang Syne) is but mediocre; but the following song, the old song of the olden time, 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." This refers to the song as we know it, but the friend, a Mr. Thompson, set the words to an old Lowland air which is the one every one now uses.
At an earlier date Burns wrote to another friend: "Is not the Scottish phrase, auld lang syne, exceedingly expressive? There is an old song and tune that has often thrilled
1. Literally. Auld Lang Syne means Old Long-Since. It is difficult to bring out the meaning of the Scotch phrase by a single English word. Perhaps The (lood Old Times comes as near to it as anything. The song gives so much meaning to the Scotch phrase that now every man and woman knows what Auld Lang Sync really stands for.
through my soul. Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment."
We cannot be certain that this refers to the exact wording he subsequently set down, for there were at least three versions known at that time.
IHOULD auld acquaintance be forgot,
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
For auld lang syne.
We twa3 hae4 run about the braes,6
And pou'd0 the gowans7 fine;
Sin'0 auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl't10 i' the burn,11
Frae12 mornin' sun till dine;13
Sin' auld lang syne.
For auld, etc.
2. That is, we will drink for the sake of old times.
3. Twa means two.
4. Hac is the Scotch for have.
5. A'brae is a sloping hillside.
6. Pou'd is a contracted form of pulled.
7. Dandelions, daisies and other yellow flowers are called gowans by the Scotch.
8. Mony is many.
9. Sin' is a contraction of since.
10. Paidl't means paddled.
11. A burn is a brook.
12. Frae is the Scotch word for from.
13. Dine means dinner-time, midday.
14. Braid is the Scotch form of broad.
And here's a hand, my trusty frere,18
And gie's16 a hand o' thine; And we'll tak a right guid17 willie-waught18
For auld lang syne.
For auld, etc.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup,19
And surely I'll be mine;
15. Frerc means friend.
16. Oie's is a contracted form of give us.
17. Quid is the Scottisli spelling of good.
18. A willie-waught is a hearty draught.
19. A pint-stoup is a pint-cup or flagon.