“Az es shtarbt nor up dus ershte vaybele” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

The biography of the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] (1893 – 1973) who grew up in Zvinyace/Zvinyetchke, Bukovina (then part of Austria-Hungary), is given in the very first post of The Yiddish Song of the Week. This week’s song is also taken from the 1954 recordings of her made by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Formally, “Az es shtarbt nor up dus ershte vaybele” (“As Soon as the First Wife Dies”) could be considered a classic ballad. The first three verses set the stage for the dialogue between the children and their father. As a narrative though, the last verse, which is sung by the father, leaves no resolution to the hopeless situation at all. 

The melody in ballads almost always stays the same for all the verses.  However, in this song the melody changes for the dialogue verses, becoming more dramatic, as does Lifshe’s moving, mournful singing. 

Ethnographically, the song depicts the poverty of the families at this time; even a piece of bread and butter was considered a delicacy. In her memoirs Durkhgelebt a velt  LSW writes of her own cruel stepfather who would not allow her to eat bread with butter. Her mother, Taube, turned the buttered side of the bread over when the stepfather entered so he would not see it. 


Please note: The dialect of the singer is more accurately reflected in the transliteration than in the Yiddish.

Az es shtarbt nor up dus ershte vaybele
Koym hot men zi bagrubn.
heybn di shadkhunim arim dem yingn man,
arim zekh tsi yugn.

As soon as the first wife dies,
and has barely been buried.
The matchmakers start chasing
the young man.

Redt men im a vaybele,
iz zi bay im mies (?)/ or perhaps [iz du bay im menies – he finds obstacles, objections]
Redt men im a meydele,
iz zi tsiker zis.

When they try to match him with an older woman
He finds her ugly.
When they try to match hm with a girl,
He finds her sugar sweet.

Zi nemt di kinder tsvugn,
zi rayst zey oys di hor.
Zey loyfn tsum tatn, veynen un klogn.
Er tit zey nokh mer shlogn.

She starts to comb for lice
and pulls out their hair;
They run to their father, crying and moaning,
He beats them even more.

Oy futer, oy futer.
Vi iz indzer miter? Vi iz indzer miter?
Vus zi flegt indz budn,
in milekh un in piter.

Oh father, oh father.
Where is our mother?
Who used to bathe us
in milk and butter.

Oy kinder, oy kinder
Broyt mit piter vet ir esn.
Nor in ayer mamen,
mizt ir shoyn fargesn.

Oh children, oh children,
Bread and butter you will eat.
But your mother
you must now forget.

Oy futer, oy futer,
Broyt mit zalts veln mir esn,
in undzer miter‘s kushere neshome,
kenen mir nit fargesn.

Oh father, oh father
Bread and salt we will eat.
But our mother‘s kosher [pure] soul,
we will never forget.

Oy kinder, oy kinder
Az di shtif-mame vet aykh shlogn,
zolt ir nit kimen tsu mir
mit veynen un klogen.

Oh children, oh children
When the stepmother beats you,
Don‘t come to me,
with moans and cries.

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