“Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor” – Two Performances

Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor / On the green fields/The Year 1914

This week we are presenting two performances of this song:

1) Sara Nomberg-Przytyk (recorded by Wolf Krakowski, Way’s Mills, Quebec, Canada, 1986):

2) Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG), Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Jonas Gottesman (recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954):

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

Though we have chosen to feature two versions of the song that begin “Of di grine felder, velder”, the song is also commonly known as “Dos 14te yor” with variants that begin with “Dos 14te yor is ongekumen, oy vey” (“The 14th Year Has Arrived”). Among the singers who have recorded versions of this song: Sidor Belarsky, Majer Bogdanski, Leibu Levin and more recently Michael Alpert, “Psoy and the Israelifts” and Lorin Sklamberg/ Susan McKeown.

Michael Alpert’s a capella version of the song can be heard here. Plus, below is a contemporary interpretation of the song by Psoy and the Israelifts titled “1914” found on YouTube:

In YIVO’s Ruth Rubin’s Archive there are field recordings by Martn Birnbaum, Chinke Asher and Hannah Rosenberg. In the volume Old Jewish Folk Music: The Collections and Writings of Moshe Beregovsky (Mark Slobin, U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982; Syracuse University Press, 2000) there are 7 versions with melodies!

The song became very popular over a wide area of Eastern Europe during and after the first world war. So popular that it was recalled with amusement in a chapter in B. Kuczerer’s [קוטשער] Yiddish memoirs of Warsaw Geven a mol varshe, (Paris, 1955). He begins the chapter on the 1914 German occupation of Warsaw in this way:

“The 14th year has arrived – oy vey!

And soon it [the song] enveloped everyone and everything as if by magic… Day and night. Wherever you go, wherever you stand. In every street, in every courtyard, in every corner.

Who sang it loudly to arouse pity. Who sang it quietly, for oneself, to get it off your chest. And everywhere the same song. Everywhere the same melody, the same moan, the same tears.

‘The 14th year has arrived – oy vey!'”  (p. 59)

But some versions of the song are about later years. In the Sofia Magid collection Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin, Basya Fayler sings about the “Dos akhtsnte yor” (“The18th year” p. 277 – 79). The linguist Prof. Moshe Taube remembers his father singing this song about “Dos 19te yor” referring to the Polish violence against Jews at that time (oral communication).

THE UKRAINIAN CONNECTION

This song can ultimately can be traced back to a Ukrainian song of the 1830s. In a review of a lecture by the Polish folklorist Jan Byston written by Max Weinreich, published in Yidishe filologye heft. 2/3, March-June, 1924, Weinreich refers to the first publication of this Yiddish song in the periodical Der Jude (n.1-2, April-May 1917 p. 123-124) in which the collector Anshl (Anselm) Kleynman remembers how in the trenches of 1914-1915 some Ukrainian soldiers sang their version, and Jewish soldiers heard it, translated it and it spread from there. In this lecture that Weinreich attended, Bystron pointed out that the song in Ukrainian was sung as far back as 1833.

Prof. Robert Rothstein found two versions of the Ukrainian song from 1834. He writes: “One stanza was found among Aleksander Pushkin’s papers, written on the back of a letter from Nikolai Gogol. Pushkin died in 1837.” He adds “It’s also known as Чорна рілля ізорана (Chorna rillia izorana – The Black Farm Field Has Been Dug Up). The reference is to the chornozem, the rich black soil of Ukraine.” [communication via email]

Inspired by the song, the Polish folk/death metal band Kryvoda uses a stark image of a crow on a dead soldier for their 2014 album entitled “Kruki”. Below you can hear their performance of Чорна рілля [“Chorna rillia”]:

The website “Yidlid.org” has written out a long version of the words in Yiddish, transliterated Yiddish, French and English and included the melody from Belarsky’s book

Longer versions can also be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s Yiddish folksong collection Baym kval pages 132-133 and Immanuel Olsvanger’s Rosinkess mit mandlen, 1920, pp. 259-261.

A note on the LSW/BSG version of “Oyf di grine felder, velder”: This is the only recording I have found which features my father, Jonas Gottesman (1914 – 1995), a physician born in Siret, Romania, singing along with Lifshe, his mother-in-law, and wife Beyle. He was a wonderful baritone singer and was the only one in the family who could harmonize, as can be heard on this recording.

Special thanks with help for this post to Wolf Krakowsky, Eliezer Niborski and Prof. Robert Rothstein.

TRANSLITERATION OF NOMBERG-PRZYTYK’s VERSION (Translation is on the video)

Of di grine felder un velder, oy vay, oy vay.
Of di grine felder un velder
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay

Shvartse foygl kimen tsi flien oy vay, oy vay.
kumt tsu flien a shvartser foygl
un dlubet im oys di bayde oygn, oy vay, oy vay
dlubet im oys di bayde oygn, oy vay, oy vay.

Ver vet nukh im kadish zugn oy vay, oy vay
Ver vet nukh im kadish zugn?
Ver vet nukh im vaynen un klugn oy vay, oy vay
Ver vet nukh im vaynen un klugn oy vay, oy vay

Of di grine felder un velder, oy vay, oy vay.
Of di grine felder un velder
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay

TRANSLITERATION and TRANSLATION OF LSW/BSG/JG VERSION

Of di grine, felder velder, vey, vey
Of di grine, felder velder,
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner, vey, vey,
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner, vey, vey.

On the green fields, woods, vey, vey!
On the green fields, woods
Lays covered with bullets a soldier, vey, vey
Lays covered with bullets a soldier, vey, vey

Kim tse flien shvartser foygl, vey, vey
kim tse flien shvartser foygl,
dzhibet oys bay im di oygn, oy vey.
dzhibet oys bay im di oygn, vey, vey.

Come fly here black bird, vey, vey
Come fly black bird
and peck his eyes out, vey, vey.
and peck his eyes out, vey, vey.

Sheyner foygl, shvartse vorone vey, vey
Sheyner foygl, shvartse vorona,
fli avek tsi mayn mame, vey vey,
fli avek tsi mayn mame, vey vey.

Black bird, black crow, vey, vey
Black bird, black crow
fly away to my mother, vey, vey.
fly away to my mother, vey, vey.

Zolst ir fin mayn toyt nisht zugn, vey, vey,
zolst ir fin mayn toyt nisht zugn,
anit vet zi nit oyfhern klugn vey, vey.
anit vet zi nit oyfhern klugn vey, vey.

Do not tell her of my death, vey vey
Do not tell her of my death
for she will cry and lament, vey, vey
for she will cry and lament, vey, vey.

Ver vet nukh mir veynen in klugn vey, vey
ver vet nukh mir veynen in klugn,
ver vet nukh mir kadish zugn? vey, vey.
ver vet nukh mir kadish zugn? vey, vey

Who will cry and lament for me? vey, vey
Who will cry and lament for me?
Who will say Kaddish for me? vey, vey.
Who will say Kaddish for me? vey, vey.

Nor dus ferdl, dus getraye, vey, vey
nur dus ferdl dus getraye
vet nukhgeyn nukh mayn levaye, vey, vey.
vet nukhgeyn nukh mayn levaye, vey, vey.

Only my faithful horse, vey, vey.
Only my faithful horse
Will follow at my funeral, vey, vey.
Will follow at my funeral, vey, vey.

TRANSCRIPTION OF NOMBERG-PRZYTYK’s VERSION:

nomberg 1914

TRANSCRIPTION OF LSW/BSG/JG’s VERSION:

LSW 1914 1LSW 1914 2

2 Responses to ““Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor” – Two Performances”

  1. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    From Prof. Mark Slobin

    I assume you know the Scottish counterpart to the eye-pecking of fallen soldiers? Nice to get it all literally from the birds’-eye view.

    Here’s “The Twa Corbies.”

    As I was walking all alane
    I spied twa corbies makin a mane;
    The tane unto the t’ither say
    “Whar shall we gang and dine the day-o
    Whar shall we gang and dine the day?”

    “In behind yon auld fail dyke
    I wot ther lies a new slain knight;
    Naebody kens that he lies ther-o
    But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair
    His hawk and his hound and his lady fair.”

    “His hound is to the hunting gane
    His hawk to fetch the muir-fowl hame
    His lady’s ta’en anither mate
    Sae, we may mak our dinner sweet-o
    Sae, we may mak our dinner sweet.”

    “Ye’ll light upon his white haus-bane
    And I’ll pyke out his bonny blue een;
    Wi many a lock o’ his yellow hair
    We’ll theek our nest where it grows bare
    We’ll theek our nest where it grows bare.”

  2. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    More on the Ukrainian/Polish connection to this song can be found in Jan Bystron’s book – Uwagi nad dziesiȩciu pieśniami ludowymi żydów polskich 1923

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