“Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recording by Leybl Kahn, NYC,  1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

We have drawn on three sources to look at Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s singing of Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen, a Yiddish woman’s song if ever there was one. The wide geographic range of variants (see the notes to the song in Yidisher folklor, 1938), indicates that it dates at least as far as the mid-19th century. The song is a mediation on the tragedy of divorce/abandonment from a woman of the times’ perspective.

w-forwardlookingback-011913The Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in NY ran a column “Gallery of Husbands Who Disappeared” to track down men who abandoned their wives, leaving them “agunes”.

The first source is the recording itself. Since I also heard this song from Lifshe’s daughter – my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman – I have put Beyle’s alternate words in brackets and I believe those are the “correct” words: “dermanen” not “baklern”, “di blum” instead of “der boym”. Beyle learned the song from Lifshe and there are grammatical indications to support her version.

The second source is the YIVO volume Yidisher folklor, 1938. Song #132 in that work is the same song but heard in Podbroz, near Vilna, Lithuania; quite a distance from Lifshe’s Bukovina homeland. We have included the words and melody of that version in which the singer sings “di roze” instead of Lifshe’s “boym” and “agune” (an abandoned wife) instead of Lifshe’s “grushe” (a divorcee). My mother also sang “agune” and I believe that is how it was most widely sung.

The third source is the Ruth Rubin field-recording housed at YIVO of the fine singer Bill Lubell (hometown unknown). We have not included the recording but have transcribed his words.

In his performance a “woman’s song” has been adapted for a male singer. No longer is there a mention of “widow”, “divorcee” or “abandoned wife”. Without the build-up found in the woman’s version leading to the climactic description of an agune being discarded, the “man’s version” pales in comparison.

In my mind, it does not take too much imagination to interpret the verse “The flower blooms in the woods – the rain falls on her – she then loses her color” in a Freudian manner.

VERSION BY LIFSHE SCHAECHTER-WIDMAN

Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu baklern [dermanen]
Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu badenken.
Fal ikh arayn in alerley krenken,
fal ikh aran in alerley krenken.

When I begin to ponder [remember]
When I begin to consider,
I fall into all
sorts of illnesses.

Alerleyke krenken
ken a doktor heyln.
Nor mayn krenk
Ken ikh keynem nisht dertseyln.

All kinds of illnesses
can be cured by a doctor.
But about my illness
I can tell no one.

Der boym [di blum] vakst in vald
Der reygn geyt af ir.
Farlirt er [zi ] dekh oykh
dem sheynem kolir.

The tree [flower] grows in the forest.
The rain falls on it.
And so it loses
its beautiful color.

Nisht azoy di kolirn
vi di sheyne farbn.
Eyder aza leybn
iz beser tsi shtarbn.

Not so much the colors,
as the beautiful colors.
Rather than such a life,
it would be better to die.

Yingerheyt tsi shtarbn,
iz dokh oykh a sakune.
Eyder tsi blabn
a yinge almune.

To die young
is also a danger.
Better than remaining
a young widow.

An almune blaybt men
A’ der man shtarbt avek.
A grishe [an agune] nor blaybt men
ven der man varft avek.

One becomes a widow
when the husband dies.
A woman becomes divorced [abandoned]
when the husband discards.
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VERSION FROM PODBROZ, VILNE REGION (from Yidisher folklor, 1938, click to enlarge):

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3 Responses to ““Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman”

  1. Beautiful. When my mother was especially exasperated with me for something sweet I forgot to say to her and hurriedly tried to make up for it, she’d shake her head and say, ‘hot dich dermant?’

  2. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    Another longer version in “Judische Volkslieder aus Mohilew” by S. Gureschitz, in the journal Mitteilungen zur Judischen Volkskunde, 17 Jahrgang, 1 heft, Wien 1914. Page 11.

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