Commentary by Itzik Gottesman
“Yo, yo du vilst” (Yes, yes, you want) is a version of the international ballad, often called “Impossible Tasks”, #2 “Elfin Knight” in the Child ballad canon (Scarborough Fair is another example of this ballad type). Many Yiddish versions have been collected over a wide area of Eastern Europe. Hardly any of them, however, included the music when published. A more popular version was recently printed with music in Yiddish Folksongs From the Ruth Rubin Archive, Wayne St. University Press, 2007, page 61 – 62. Adrienne Cooper recorded that version on her CD “Enchanted”. In The Folk Songs of Ashkenaz, edited by Philip Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 2007, the compilers compare two Yiddish variants to four German variants on pages 82 – 89, music included.
The version sung by Josh Waletzky (which I recorded from him in 2007) parallels several found in Noyekh Prilutski’s Yidishe folkslider volume 2 (1913), pages 96 – 104, seven versions in all, and another one in the supplement at the end, pages 164 – 165. Most of the variants are from the Warsaw area. Waletzky sings only two verses (which he learned from Leyele Klempner, who sings on screen in Waletzky’s documentary film “Image Before My Eyes”) but one can easily reconstruct a fuller Warsaw version of this song. I did so for the Advanced Yiddish Song Workshop this month at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany, but more work needs to be done. Ethel Raim played the class this recording; a beautiful melody quite different from the other melodies for this song.
“This is Josh Waletzky singing a song that I learned from Layele (Warsaw Yiddish pronunciation of Leyele) Klempner, from her repertoire. It’s a fragment and I sing it in my standard Yiddish; she sang it in her Polish Yiddish. She was from Warsaw. “
Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo, du vilst
az ikh zol mit dir tnoyim shraybn.
Zolstu mir zibn kinder hobn,
un a meydl farblaybn.
Yes, yes you want, yes, yes you want.
that I should sign the engagement contract with you.
Let’s see you have seven children,
and a maiden remain.
Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo du vilst
Az ikh zol zibn kinder hobn un a meydl farblaybn
Zolstu mir ale shtern tseyln
vifl in himl zenen.
Yes, yes you want, yes, yes, you want.
that I should have seven children and a maiden remain;
Let’s see you count the stars
as many as are in the sky.