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“Rokhl mevako al boneho” Performed by Esther Korshin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week’s blogpost, Esther Korshin sings a version of Rokhl mevako al boneho [Rachel Weeps for Her Children] by Elyokem Zunser, first published in 1871.  It was contributed by her granddaughter Jennifer E. Herring. Herring’s neighbor – cantor, singer and musicologist Janet Leuchter – heard about the recording and contacted us. The recording was made in 1946. Herring writes the following about the singer:

“Esther Yampolsky Korshin was born on 12/28/1886 in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine.  Her father was a cantor, as was her brother Israel. She idolized her father. Her husband was Louis (Lev) Korsinsky, a cobbler. Esther left Russia in 1903 with her one-year-old daughter Etta. She left illegally because Louis was escaping the draft for the Sino-Russian War. Her name was changed to Korshin at Ellis Island. Children Jack, Nathan and Sylvia were born in the US. She knew Russian, Yiddish, English; read in Russian & English. Always bettering herself. No formal education. She spent six months auditing the tutoring of a Russian child in whose home she was a domestic. To earn money she did piecework sewing at home. Neighbors would gather to hear her sing. “

Esther Korshin c. 1930Esther Yampolsky Korshin, 1930, courtesy of Jennifer Herring

Zunser’s song is inspired by the Prophet Jeremiah’s words (Jeremiah 31:14) “Rachel weeps for her chidren” רחל מבכה על בניה  which has been understood as the biblical matriarch Rachel lamenting over the tragic fate of the the Jews throughout history. Zunser applies this view to his own times, and the troubles that Jews were facing at the end of the 19th century.

Korshin sings all five verses of the original text, 16 lines each. We have transcribed and translated the text of the singer’s version. We included the original line of text from Zunser’s printed version in brackets when it differed significantly. Korshin stays remarkably true to Zunser’s words. It is a remarkable performance.

Since Esther Korshin’s father and brother were cantors, it seems reasonable to assume that they had learned this moving song for performances and she learned it from them.

There are not many Zunser songs on popular recordings. The only record dedicated to his songs, a 1963 Folkways recording “Selected Songs of Eliakum Zunser” by Nathaniel Entin, which includes this song, does not capture the spirit of a folk performance. This is the third Zunzer field recording on the blog Yiddish Song of the Week.

In addition to the transcription, translation and yiddish transcription of Korshin’s version we are attaching scans of the original music, and words as found in  Eliakum Tsunzers verk: Kritishe oysgabe  2 volumes  (YIVO, NY 1964) Mordkhe Schaechter, editor.

1)
Di zin hot ungevizn in mayrev-zayt
mit ir royte shtraln, zi nemt opsheyd.
In di nakht mit ir fintserkayt
hot ungetun di erd in ayn shvarts kleyd.
Di velt mit ire layt shvaygn shtim
Es shvaygn shtim, say berg, say tol.
In di levune geyt zikh gants shtil arim
Fin di shtern hert men oykh kayn kol.
Nor a shtime di shtilkayt tseshlugt.
A kol fun a fru veynt un klugt.
In ir yumer un fil geveyn
kenen di kreftn oysgeyn.
Mit ir fidele shpil ikh zikh tsi.
A troyerike melodi
Zi shrayt nebekh fun ir getselt.
“Farvuglt bin ikh fin der velt.”

2)
Ayn kirtse tsayt hob ikh nakhes gehat.
Ven Got hot aykh in ayer land geshtitst.
Der mizbeyekh iz geveyn mit karbunes zat.
Di kruvim mit di fliglen hobn aykh bashitst.
Duvids kinder in der kroyn gekleydt.
Der koyen-godl in zayn kostyum.
In di sanhedrin vi ayn geflantser beyt,
in der beys-hamikdosh vi a frilingsblum.
Dray mol a yur in der tsayt.
Gekimen fin nuvnt, fin vayt.
Der brengt karbunes fun shlakht.
Un der hot bikurim gebrakht.
Di Leviyim hobn geshpilt.
Der yid hot zikh heylik gefilt.
Di gasn mit freylekhkayt zat
Oy dan hob ikh nakhes gehat.

3)
Ober tsiyon hot ongevoyrn ir fargenign.
Ir mayontik farshpilt in kon.
Dos ort beys-lekhim vi mayne beyner lign,
geyt in aveyles ungetun.
Di barg levunen, di giter-fraynd,
Oy, vos far a fis treytn oyf dir haynt?
Di barg Moriyo, di heylik ort
A Makhmedaner metshet shteyt yetst dort!
Di gasn zaynen shoyn pist.
Di veygn zaynen farvist.
In Karmel kayn blumen blit.
Di turems zey glantsn shoyn nit.
Di kohanim vos hobn geshtitst.
Di leviyim vi zaynen zey itst?
Vi’z ayer kroyn ayer rakh?
In vus iz gevorn fin aykh?

4)
Ikh kik of yerushelayim fin mayrev-zayt
Dortn ze ikh mayne kinder vi koyln shvarts.
Zey shparn on dem kop af der darer hant
In veynen az ez farklemt dos harts.
Es iz nishtu in yerushelayim kayn beyn, kayn shteyn
Vos iz nit geveyn nas fin mayn kinds geveyn,
Mayn kind tsi drikn iz a kindershpil
vi me treft im un – dort iz der tsil.
Fin Moldaviye her ikh ayn geshrey
Mayn kind shrayt dort “oy vey”
Fin Rumenyen shrayt er “nit git”
nor fargist men vi vaser zayn blit.
Fin daytshland shrayt er “S’iz shlekht”
Vayl dortn bakimt er kayn rekht.
Fin oystralyen baveynt er di erd.
Dort kikt men af im vi oyf ayn ferd.

5)
In himl di toyznter shtern
baveynen oykh mayn kinds geveyn.
un di boymer, zey gisn trern
di feygelekh zey entfern mit ayn geveyn.
Ober dos harts fun dem faynd iz farshteynt.
Dos umglik hot im zayn harts farshpart.
Der shlekhter akhzer zeyt vi men veynt
[original – der krokodel, der akhzer, treft oykh er veynt]
in zayn harts iz im vi ayzn hart…
A! Got entfer shoyn mir!
zug di vi lang nokh iz der shir
tsu laydn, a dor nokh a dor?
Tsures bay tsvey toyznt yor.
Ir shtern, zogt mir, oyb ir veyst.
tsi di host shoyn farlorn mayn treyst?
oy, neyn, ikh shpir shoyn, ikh shpir!
Az mayn Got vet nokh helfn mir.
[original – “Akh Got entfer shoyn mir.]

Spoken in English at the end of the recording: “Recorded by Esther Korshin, on April 10, 1946 at the age of 59”

1)
The sun appeared in the west
with her red rays, she bids farewell.
And the night and her darkness
dressed the earth in a black dress.
The world and her people are silent.
Still are the mountains and the valleys,
and the moon quietly moves around
and no call from the stars is also heard.
But a voice breaks the silence
a voice of a woman who cries and laments.
In her sorrow and cries
you could lose all your strength.
With her fiddle she accompanies herself
with a sad melody.
She cried from her grave –
“The world has discarded me”.

2)
“For a brief time I had pleasure
when God aided you in your land.
The alter was full of sacrifices.
The cherubs with their wings protected you.
David’s children wore the crown.
The High Priest in his garments.
And the Sanhedrin was like a planted bed of flowers
and the Holy Temple was like a spring flower.
Three times a year at a certain time
They came from near and far.
This one brings sacrifices to battle
And that one brings the first fruits.
The Levites were playing,
the Jew felt the holiness
The streets overflowed with joy.
O, then did I have such pleasure!

3)
But Zion lost her joy.
Her treasure gambled away.
The place Bethlehem where my bones lie,
wear the clothes of mourning.
You moutain Lebanon, my dear friend,
whose feet tread on you today?
You mountain Moriah, you holy place,
A Moslem mosque now stands there!
The streets are abandoned
The paths are all destroyed
On Carmel no flowers bloom.
The towers no longer shine.
The Kohamim who were a support,
The Levites – where are they now?
Where is your crown, your kingdom?
What has become of you?

4)
I look at Jerusalem from the western wall
There I see my children, black as coal.
They rest their heads on their emaciated hands
and cry till it pains your heart.
In Jersusalem there’s no bone, no stone
that did not get wet from my child’s tears.
It’s become like a children’s game to oppress my child –
Wherever you find him – that is the goal.
From Moldova I hear a scream
My child there yells out  “oy vey!”
From Romania he yells “no good”
and his blood is spilled like water.
From Germany he yells “It’s bad!”
For there he has no righs.
In Australia he laments the earth
He is looked down upon as if he were a horse.

5)
In heaven the thousand stars
also lament my child’s cries.
And the trees they pour with tears
and the birds answer with weeping.
But the heart of the enemy has turned to stone
This tragedy has caged in his heart.
The evil monster sees how we cry
[Original – the crocodile, the monster, also cries]
In his heart it is as hard as iron.
Oh God answer me now!
Say how long can this go on?
To suffer generation after generation,
Sorrows for two thousand years!
You stars, tell me if you know.
Has my comfort been lost among you?
Oh, no, I feel it now, I feel it –
That my God will yet help me
[original – O God answer me now]

Spoken in English after the song:
“Recorded by Esther Korshin, on April 10, 1946 at the age of 59”wordsA1wordsa2

WordsB

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