“Bay der fintsterer nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A print version of Bay der fintsterer nakht can be found in I. L. Cahan “Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung” YIVO, 1952, NY, in an article given the title for this volume “Peyrushim af 24 lider” that his student at the YIVO institute in Vilna, Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe, had prepared for publication. This article consisted of Cahan’s comments on Yiddish songs that Pipe had collected in his hometown of Sanok [in Yiddish “Sunik/Sonik”], Galicia. Pipe had collected a version of “Bay der fintserer nakht” in 1934 from a singer who said it was sung 30 years earlier. The song is in Cahan, 1952, page 185, and has three verses, rather than two verses and one refrain, as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (1894-1974) (LSW) sings it.

According to interviews with LSW conducted by Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, NYU, in 1972-73, the song was sung by the plagers/plogers (sufferers). The plagers were young Jewish men who were about to be inducted into the Austria-Hungarian army and wandered from town to town, usually in groups, so they would intentionally fail the draft because of their poor health. See my article “Plagers: a folkloristishe shtudye” [Plagers: a folkloristic study], Forverts, January 7th, 2010, page 4, which refers to the literature on plagers in Yiddish.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s Hometown of Zvinyetchke, Bukovina, Ukraine
Photo by Itzik Gottesman, 2010

In this recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954, she clearly sings the song too high in this performance, as can be heard in the last verse.

Bay der fintsterer nakht is unusual textually – it doesn’t fall into the usual categories of men’s songs – not religious, not political, not a work song, not humorous, not nationalist. It’s partly a lament on how miserable life is, and partly a love song; topics we would usually hear in women’s songs.

Bay der fintsterer nakht
lig ikh mir bayshtendik*, oy, un trakht.
zayt ikh bin fin mayn heym avek.
ikh ken shoyn nit kimen keyn kayn tsvek.
Ver se vil nit, dertsapt mir mayn blit.

In the dark night,
I lay constantly, oy, and think,
since I have left my home.
I cannot reach any goal.
Who ever wants can bleed me.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir dus harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts.
Derekh ayn imgliklekher libe
Imtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
How bitter is my heart.
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Who can feel my pain?
Because of an unfortunate love,
I wander the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy, lonely am I as a stone.

Mayn mame hot mikh gelozt shtudirn.
Zi hot gevolt az fun mir zol zayn a lat
Fun deym alemen hot zikh gur oysgelozt.
Ikh ti mir blind arimshpatsirn.
Elnt bin ekh, in na venad.

My mother allowed me to study,
She wanted something to become of me 
[lit – she wanted me to become a respectable person]
From all of this, nothing turned out.
Blindly I wander around,
lonely am I and homeless.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir mayn harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts?
un derekh a finsterer libe
arimtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy, elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy,
How bitter is my heart
Oy, oy, oy, oy,
Who can feel my pain?
Because of a dark love
to wander in the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy lonely am I like a stone.

*bayshtendik – though I am unfamiliar with this word, my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (LSW’s daughter), and I assume it means the same as „shtendik‟.

 

One Response to ““Bay der fintsterer nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman”

  1. af daytsh iz do a vort “beständig” – f”g “bashtendik” – vos eyn taytsh fun im meynt azoy fil vi on a hafsoke, af tomid, “shtendik”

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