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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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“Erev yon-kiper noent tsu kol-nidre” Performed by Sore Kessler

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The singer of this week’s ballad, Erev yon-kiper noent tsu kol-nidre (The Eve of Yom-kippur, Right Before Kol-Nidre), is Sarah (Sore) Kessler. The recording is from the Ruth Rubin Collection at YIVO. Rubin recorded it in 1949.

This song tells of a Jewish girl running away with a non-Jewish boy on the eve of Yom-kippur. In Kessler’s version he is referred to as a “sheygets”.  In two other versions from the Sofia Magid collection (Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) he is called an “eyn orl fun kristen geboyrn” (one who is uncircumcised born a Christian).

yom-kippur-3-erev
“Yom Kippur Eve” by Mayer Kirshenblatt from the book “They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust” (courtesy Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett)

We have included the Kessler audio, the transliteration and translation, scans of the Magid versions and a PDF of the Yiddish words in Yiddish as sung by Kessler. The transliteration reflects her Yiddish dialect.

The singer, Soreh Kessler, from the Polish town of Czyżew (Yiddish name:”Tshizheve”) between Warsaw and Bialystok, recorded songs for Ruth Rubin at the beginning of Rubin’s field recording project in New York, 1947 to 1949.

When comparing the Magid versions and Kessler’s version it is clear that a crucial scene has been left out of Kessler’s: the one in which the Christian boy tells the runaway girl that he never loved her and was just kidding. She then returns to find that her parents died from grief.

One word is not clear to me – the fourth line of the first two stanzas – “____ un tinkl”. In Magid’s versions the word is “nakht” but here it sounds like “khmurne”, which means gloomy.

Recording is courtesy the Max and Frieda Weinstein Archive of Recorded Sound at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (Lorin Sklamberg, Sound Archivist). Thanks also to Dr. Paul Glasser for help with the town name.

TRANSLITERATION

SPOKEN: Dos lid hob ikh gehert in mayn shtetl Czyzew in poyln. Az es vet shoyn zayn tsvantsik, oder finf un tsvantsik yor tsayt.

Erev-yon-kiper noent tsi kol-nidre,
ven me geyt shoyn in talis in kitl.
un der futer der frimer er bentsht zayn bas-yekhidl,
In droysn vert khmurne (?) un tinkl.

Di muter di frime bay Got burekh-hi tit zi beytn,
bay di veksene likhtlekh in vinkl.
Ze bentsht oykh ir tokhter, ir bas-yekhidl.
In droysn vert khmurne un tinkl.

Ven di bas-yekhidl iz in hoyz aleyn farblibn,
a simen hot es zi im gegeybn.
Dort kletert eyner ariber iber dem parkan.
Dos iz ir gelibter geveyzn.

Ven futer un miter zenen tsurik aheymgekimen
zeyer bas-yekhidl nisht getrofn.
Dort bay di shkheynim hert zikh a troyerike shtime,
az mit a sheygetz iz zi antlofn.

Borves un naket lozt zi zikh loyfn,
iber berg un shteyner un toln.
Azoy vi zi iz nor tsu ir elterns hoyz gekimen –
kayn futer, kayn muter nisht getrofn.

Oyf deym beys-almon lozt zi zikh loyfn.
Zi iz shoyn arunter fun zinen.
Oyf deym beys-almon oyf dem mamenyus keyver
a teyter hot men zi gefinen.

TRANSLATION

Spoken: I heard this song in my town Czyzew in Poland. It must be 20 or 25 years ago.

On the eve of Yom-Kippur just before Kol Nidre
When one goes in talis and kitl  [prayer shawl & white linen coat]
And the pious father blesses his only daughter
Outside it is gloomy and dark.

The pious mother prays to God, may he be blessed,
by wax candles in the corner.
She also blesses her daughter, her only daughter.
Outside is gloomy and dark.

When the only daughter remained alone at home,
she gave him a sign.
There climbs someone, over the fence –
that was her lover.

When father and mother returned home,
they did not find their only daughter.
From the neighbors you could hear a plaintive cry –
she ran off with a non-Jewish boy.

Barefoot and naked she wildly runs
Over mountains and stones and valleys
She approached her parent’s house –
but no father, no mother did she find.

To the cemetery she wildly runs.
She has already lost her mind.
On the cemetery on her mother’s grave
they found her dead.

yomkippur1words
yomkippur2words
yomkippur3words
yomkippur4words

EREV YOM KIPUR FROM SOFIA MAGID COLLECTION (Grozinger and Hudak-Lazic, 2008):

magidyk1magidyk2magidyk3magidyk4

“S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg (The Holy Days Have Arrived) is a song that takes place before Rosh-hoshone and Yom-kipper when it is a tradition to visit the departed family at the cemetery.

YIVO

Photo courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

In the cemetery, a voice is heard of a recently deceased woman who died in childbirth, and she sings of her anguish about her new born child and her husband whom she loved.

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg
Ven me darf geyn af keyver-oves
Az ikh bin gekimen in halbn veg
Hob ikh mikh dermont in mane makhshoves.

Plitsem hert men a kol
fin a frishn korbn.
Fin a yunger kimpiturin.
Vus iz ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.

Vi iz mayn yinger man?
Ver vet im arimnemen?
Vi iz mayn pitsele kind?
Ver vet im zeygn gebn?

Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Ven gehat hob ikh es [epes?] tsu krign.
Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Fin mayn man, fin mayn libn.

The holy days have arrived
time to visit family in the graveyard
When I was half way there,
I remembered my ruminations.

Suddenly a voice is heard
from a fresh victim:
A woman who died in childbirth
Just a short while ago.

Where is my young husband?
Who will embrace him?
Where is my little child?
Who will breastfeed it?

When I am reminded of that time
when I had what I wanted.
When i think of that time,
Of my husband whom I loved.sizgekumen1sizgekumen2

When one thinks about love songs in Yiddish, the vast majority are sung by unmarried girls who dream of the man they love and how wonderful life will be after the wedding. Few are the songs, such as this, in which the woman openly expresses love for her young husband. Lifshe Shaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) powerful emotional style matches the words perfectly.

In this case, the wife sings of her love from her grave and the song immediately reminds us of another song performed by LSW, Afn beys-olyem, also known as Di shtifmuter and originally penned by Mikhl Gordon.

In addition to this field recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx, 1954, there are two other published versions of S’iz gekimen di heylike teg. One, collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Galica, does indeed take one verse taken from Gordon’s song. see Dov Noy and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun galitsye (Tel Aviv, 1971), page 110 – 112.

In Pipe’s version the song is strictly an orphan song and has a refrain.

Pipe1Pipe2

The second version can be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s song collection, Baym kval – folkslider, Vilna, 1923 (page 81, song #22) and he calls it Di shtifmuter, the same title as Gordon’s song. This second version emphasizes the wicked step-mother who will mistreat the child.

bastomski- heylike teg