“Der vanderer: Geboyrn bin ikh in tsores un in leydn” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Der vanderer: Geboyrn bin ikh in tsores un in leydn /
The Wanderer:
I was born with troubles and suffering
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman follows the transcription and translation.


TRANSLITERATION / TRANSLATION

Geboyrn bin ikh in tsures in in leydn
in troyer in in yumer in in klug.
Fartribn bin ekh fin ale mayne freydn.
S’mir nisht lib kayn eyntsiker tug. 

I was born with troubles and suffering,
in sorrow and with tears and misfortune.
I’ve been driven away from all my joys:
Not one day of enjoyment have I had. 

Dus imglik traybt mekh arim iberal.
Es geyt mir oft mayn leybn oys.
Vus fara tug ze ikh in ayn argern fal.
Di hofenung – dus iz mayn malekh-hamus.

Bad luck has driven me everywhere;
Often has my life nearly ended
With each passing day I see something worse.
Hope has become my angel of death.

RefraIn:

Benken, benk ikh nukh mayn heymat shtark
Dortn shteyt mayn vigele, mayn rakh.
Vi lang ken ikh nokh zayn in na-venad.

Refrain:

I long so much for my home.
There is my crib, my realm.
How long can I still wander around?

Oy, di zin, di shants zeyer lib,
Dan sheynkeyt dayn lekht iz a prakht.
Nor mir eyner shantsti nebekh, trib.
ven bay dir iz tug, iz bay mir nakht. 

O, the sun, you shine with great pleasure.
Your beauty, your light is a splendor.
But for just me  your shine is gloomy.
When it is day for you, for me it is night. 

Di derkvikst ayeydn mit dayn frimorgn,
mit shpatsirn, luft in gezint.
Nor mekh eyner derkviksti mit zorgn.
Vayl ekh bin urem, a farvuglt kind.

You delight everyone with your morning,
with walks, air and health.
But for me alone, you “delight” with worries,
for I am poor, a homeless child.

Derkh der hofnung lad ekh nebekh noyt.
Fin alem bestn makht zi mekh umbikant.
Filaykht ervartert meykh der toyt,
Vil ikh shtarbn in man futerland.

On account of hope I suffer hardship.
It has made the best things unknown to me.
Maybe death awaits me,
so I want to die in my fatherland. 

Vayl benkn, benk ikh nukh mayn haymat shtark
Dortn shteyt mayn vigele, mayn rakh.
Vi lang ken ikh nokh zayn in na-venad?
Na-vad.

{Refrain}

I long so much for my home.
There is my crib, my realm.
How long can I still wander around?
Wander around.

The Germanisms in this song can only mean one thing – “Galicia”.  The Jews who lived in Austria-Hungarian Galicia before WWI and in its sister territory Bukovina, where singer Lifshe Schaechter Widman (LSW) was from, were fluent in German, sang German songs, and had no problem with German words in their Yiddish. A Yiddish writer I often associate with Galicia, Fradl Shtok (from Brody?), mentions this song in her story “Komediantn” (Gezamlte dertseylungen, 1919, p. 57.)  There, a street performer sings and plays on the flute – “Benken, benk ikh nokh mayn heymat…”. Unfortunately, she ends the song there.

Chagall-Over-Vitebsk-GettyImages-CROPPED-1843825-5aad718ea474be0019b9d26e (1)“Over Vitebsk” by Marc Chagall, 1914

A printed version of this song, sung by Z. Goldstein, text and music, appears in Shloyme Prizament’s book Broder zinger (pages 163 – 164) with the same title that LSW uses to introduce the song “Der vanderer”. Other than the refrain, the words and music are quite different. The fact that both Goldstein and LSW call it with the same title, “The Wanderer”, indicates, in my opinion, that it is from a play or, more likely, a popular Broder zinger tavern performance (for a recent article on Broder zinger see the article “Broder Singers: Forerunners of the Yiddish Theater” by Amanda [Miryem-Khaye] Seigel).

The song became a beggar’s song at some point. In volume 8, #22 in the CD series Historical Collection of Jewish Musical Folklore 1912 – 1947 produced by the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, Kiev,  the singer Yeshaya Khazan, recorded in 1939, sings a similar version to LSW. Khazan refers to this as a beggar song and his emotional performance, punctuated with “oy veys!” bears this out.

A longer printed version of the song, and one that is closest to LSW’s version, can be found in the collection of folk poetry Zeks yidishe folks lider (Six Yiddish folks songs) by  L. M. Graboys (or Groboys), Kishinev, 1900.

zeks cover

Here the song is entitled “Benken benk ikh”. Though the author implies that he is the author of all the songs in the collection, this is doubtful. The first song “Der bal-dover mit dem khoyle”  [the devil and the sick one] is a long version of the old ballad “Der lomp vert farloshn”, (listen to LSW’s version of this on Yiddish Song of the Week posted in 2011) which Graboys/Groboys certainly did not write. 

One word gave me particular trouble in this song. In the refrain, all of the sources except LSW sing “Dortn iz  mayn vigele, mayn rekht”. What is meant by “rekht” in this context? I have heard many suggestions: birthright, citizenship, rights, among them. All are possible, though I have never heard “rekht” used that way with this syntax. LSW sings a different word which I hear as “raykh” (“reich” in German) and translate as “realm”.

During the short discussion after the song between collector Leybl Kahn and LSW, she clarifies that it is not a Zionist song. 

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.

vanderer1vanderer2

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