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Mark Varshavski’s “Vi halt ikh dus oys?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2018 by yiddishsong

Vi halt ikh dus oys? – How Can One Stand It?
Words and Music: Mark Varshavski
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded by Leybl Kahn NYC 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Vi halt ikh dus oys is surely one of the saddest songs from a composer, Mark Varshavski (aka Warshavsky) known for his classic nostalgic and upbeat songs such as Oyfn pripetshok, Milner’s trern and Di mezinke oysgegebn.

In her brief discussion with Leybl Kahn before and after she sings, LSW connected the -message of the song to the Zionist movement; a commentary on the eternal wandering of the Jews. She also affirms that she learned it from an aunt in her small town of Zvinyetshke in the Bukovina.

For a full biography of Mark Varshavski (1848 – 1907) see the YIVO Encyclopedia.

mark varshavsky picMark Varshavski in Berdichev, 1900 (YIVO)

In her very emotional performance, the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] stays remarkably close to the original text which is attached at the end of the post from the volume “Yidishe folkslider fun M. M. Varshavski” One interesting textual change, however, is in the line where LSW sings:

Farentfer di kashe, Got di bist groys
[Answer the question – God you are vast/supreme]

In Varshavski’s original text it reads:
S’farenfert di kashe, Got du bist groys
[The question is answered by – God you are vast/supreme]

The folklorized words by LSW address God directly, reflecting a more intimate relationship with God than in Varshavki’s version.

I could not find a previous recording of this song, neither on record, CD nor in field recordings. However, a song about Mendel Beilis and his infamous trial (1911-1913), accusing him of a blood libel is based on this Varshavski song. Lorin Sklamberg, YIVO sound archivist and lead singer for The Klezmatics, sang Dos lid fun Mendel Beilis at YIVO in 2013:

Thanks for help with this week’s post to Lorin Sklamberg.

TRANSLITERATION

Vi halt men dus oys? Farshtey ikh nisht kh’lebn.
Es iz shoyn fin Got azoy mir bashert.
Bay veymen s’iz a yontif dus shtikele leybn:
Bay mir iz dus leybn shvarts vi di erd.
Far vus un far ven, fregt mekh nit eyner.
Farentfer di kashe – Got di bist groys.
Es triknt in mir der marekh fun mayne beyner,
un ikh halt dus nit oys; ikh halt dus nit oys.

Vi halt men dus oys? Es iz avade a vinder.
Vi ikh shlep mayne krank, geshvolene fis.
Ikh blondze arim mit mayne ureme kinder
un vi ikh kim iz finster in vist.
A du ken ikh nisht shteyn, a du tor men nit lign.
azoy tsit men fin mir mayne koykhes aroys.
Vu ikh gey her ikh eyn nign –
Ikh halt dus nit oys; ikh halt dus nit oys.

A yeder fin aykh, say rakh say urem,
hot dus alte beys-oylem shoyn gezeyn.
Dort lign alte, tsebrokhene kvurim,
un fun dort hert men a geveyn.
Azoy iz tsebrokhn iz mir yeder eyver,
di velt iz mir fintster khotshe zi iz groys.
Oy, dek dikh af gikher, di fintserer keyver.
Vayl ikh halt dus nit oys, ikh halt dus nit oys.

TRANSLATION

How can one stand this? I swear I don’t understand.
It must be decreed from God.
For those who enjoy a little of life –
For me is life black as the earth.
Why and for what reason? No one asks me.
Answer the question, God you are supreme.
The marrow of my bones is drying
and I can no longer stand it, I can no longer stand it.

How can I stand it? It is truly a wonder.
I drag my sick, swollen legs.
I wander aimlessly with my poor children
and wherever I come, I feel dark and deserted.
There I may not stand; here I may not lay.
And in this way my strength disspipates.
Wherever I go I hear only one tune –
I cannot stand this; I can no longer stand this.

Each of you, the rich and the poor
has surely seen out Jewish cemetery.
There lay old, broken graves
and from deep in the graves one hears a cry.
Thus is broken in me every limb.
The world is as dark as it is vast.
O, cover me up you dark grave
Because I can no longer take it, I can no longer take it.

vi halt 1 yidvi halt 2 yid

warshavkiBookWarshavski1Warshavski2

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