“Der nakhtvekhter” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Der nakhtvekhterThe Night Watchman
Words by Avrom Reyzen, performance by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1980s Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

Beyle Schaechter Gottesman (BSG) remembers learning this song in Jewish school in Chernovitz, Romania in the 1930s. She attended two schools: the Morgnroyt, a Bundist (socialist) school, every day after Romanian public school. On Sundays she attended the Yidisher shul-fareyn which was more left. She remembers learning Nakhtvekhter  at the Morgnroyt school.

Nightwatchman 4 The words are by Avrom Reyzen (1876 – 1953), a beloved Yiddish writer whose poetry was often turned into song.  In Reisin’s volume of selected poetry (Di lider, 1951) he placed this poem among his earliest, so we can assume it was written around the turn of the century.  We are attaching a scan of the words as they appear in that volume. BSG’s version varies slightly.  When she repeats the last two lines of each verse, she corrects herself twice when she felt she had sung those lines incorrectly the first time.

I have not found any recordings yet. Paul Lamkoff composed a different melody to the poem and it can be heard at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.


Der nakhtvekhter

Shpeyt di nakht iz kalt in fintster.
Neypldik in nas.
In di hayzer ruen ale
shtil un toyt in gas
In di hayzer ruen ale
toyt in shtim in gas.

Elnt shlept zikh nokh der vekhter
of der gas arim.
in di shtile hayzer kikt er
troyerik in shtim.
In di shtile hayzer kikt er
troyerik in shtim.

Dort in veykhn varem betl
shluft zikh azoy git.
Oy, vi voltn mayne beyner
Dort zikh oysrerit.
Oy, vi voltn mayne beyner
Dort zikh oysrerit.

In er klugt zikh farn himl –
zey mayn troyer tsi!
Ikh aleyn hob gornisht, hit ikh
yenems shluf un ri.
Ikh aleyn hob gornisht, hit ikh
yenems gits un ri.

The Night Watchman

Late at night, it’s cold and dark,
foggy and wet.
In the houses all are resting
Silent and dead on the street.
In the houses all are resting
dead and silent on the street.

Alone, the watchman drags himself
along the street.
He looks into the quiet houses
sadly and silently.
He looks into the quiet houses
sadly and silently.

There in a soft warm bed
one sleeps so well.
Oh, how my bones would
love to rest there.
Oh, how my bones would
love to rest there.

And he laments to the heavens –
witness my sorrow!
I myself have nothing, so I guard
another’s sleep and rest.
I myself have nothing, so I watch
another’s goods and rest.

nakhtvekhter

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4 Responses to ““Der nakhtvekhter” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman”

  1. Thank you Itzik! Circa 1979, Before computers, Gershon z’l’ & I used to visit Bayle & Mordkhe. B was also his official typist. Gershon would hire B to type the finished mss of his literary translations into English from Yiddish, to present to his client. Perhaps in triplicate. I wonder if these melodies influenced the rhythm of her keys tapping.
    I love Riesen and his powerful implied statement of optimism at the closing of his poem, ‘borukh ate’. The text of this one however is just too heartbreakingly maudlin for me… As you say it is an early poem, before he developed presenting power through an implied insight.
    My post-Holocaust childhood was so influenced by sadness in contemporary Yiddish literature I, an only child, overheard my Yiddish journalist father read to my mother. Often these were chosen not for literary merit, but because they were the writing of a friend of theirs.
    Thank you for taking the time Itzik, to write and post this blog. Olivia

  2. Zeyer sheyn!

  3. Jeanne Gagnaux Says:

    A sheynem dank, zeyer sheyn .

  4. philbass7 Says:

    Wonderful song. I’m planning on performing it some time soon. I’ve transcribed it in Gm, and will happily share a copy – yiddishsong@philtomlinson.co.uk

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