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“Mame a kholem” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2018 by yiddishsong
Mame, a kholem (Mother, A Dream)
Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
recorded by Leybl Kahn, NY 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The motif of the lover who returns as a beggar is as old as Homer’s Odyssey and is found in ballads throughout the world. In this Yiddish ballad version, the former lover is not disguised as a beggar but has indeed become one because of his “character”.

JewishBeggar by Rembrandt“Jewish Beggar” by Rembrandt

I consider this ballad to be one of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s [LSW] masterpieces. Not only because it is certainly among the older songs in her repertoire, but because of the deeply emotional way she performs it, concluding with the dramatic last verse in which the woman reveals to her mother who is at the door.

In typical old ballad style, the dialogue prevails: first between mother and daughter, then between daughter and beggar (former lover) and finally, again, between daughter and mother. There is a break in the narrative after the third verse when the dialogue changes and at this point Leybl Kahn, who is recording the song, feels compelled to ask LSW to continue.

This transition from third to fourth verse is noteworthy. A new plot/scene develops at this point. It leads me to believe that originally there might have been two ballads that were combined to form one.

Supporting this idea are the awkward transitions between the two scenes in all the versions. We also have examples of separate ballads. Singer/researcher Michael Alpert recorded Fanya Moshinskaya, (born 1915 in Babyi Yar, Kiev), singing a ballad of the first scene – ‘Oy a kholem’. And he has recorded Bronya Sakina (1910 – 1988) from Olvanisk (Holovanivsk/Golovanevsk, Ukraine) singing a ballad – “Derbaremt aykh”- depicting the beggar/lover scene. Alpert currently sings both of them and sometimes combines them.

In addition, there are two other versions of just the beggar/lover ballad with no first “kholem” part in the Soviet Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe” and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”.  The singer for #62 was Rive Diner from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, 1926. The singer for #63 was Yekhil Matekhin from Sobolivke, Ukraine, recorded in 1925.

A nine-verse Odessa variant without music of the LSW combined ballad – “Oj, a xolem hot zix mir gexolemt” – can be found in Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 201-202 song# 61. This was republished by Moyshe Beregovski with music in his Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34 pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355. The singer was Dine Leshner from Odessa, 1930.

In Leshner’s ballad, the transition verse between the two scenes, verse four, is presented in first person from the beggar’s viewpoint, not in dialogue. It would be quite confusing for the listener to figure out who is speaking, and I imagine the singer would almost be required to stop singing and indicate who is speaking (as LSW does at this transition point!).

Another variant of the combined version was collected by Sofia Magid in 1934 in a Belarus kolkhoz “Sitnya”, from the singer Bronya Vinokur (PON 103, full text on page 580, “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008. The audio recording can be heard on the accompanying DVD). The initial dialogue is between a man and his mother. He then travels to the rebbe, and comes to her as a beggar. She curses him in the last verse.

Oyb du host a froy mit a kleyn kind,
Zolstu zikh muttsen [mutshn] ale dayne yor.
Oyb du host mir frier nit genumen,
Konstu sheyn nit zayn mayn por.

If you have a wife and child,
May you suffer all your years.
If you did not take me before,
Then you can no longer be my match.

Hardly the romantic ending we find in the LSW version.

I would like to take the liberty of suggesting some word changes in LSW’s version for any singers out there thinking of performing the song. These suggestions are based on the other versions and on the way LSW’s daughter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] sang the song.

1) Clearly the last line in the first verse of LSW’s ballad, which doesn’t rhyme with “gedakht”, is a mistake. BSG sang instead the rhymed line –

“Az mayn gelibter shteyt baym bet bay nakht” [“That my lover is standing at my bed at night”]

But in Magid’s version and in the Alpert/ Moshinskaya’s version this line reads  – “un fun mir hot er zikh oysgelakht” (and he laughed at me”) And in the Folklor-lider version the line reads “un fun mir hot er khoyzek gemakht” (“and he mocked me”)  So the mocking of the girl is the “character” flaw that results in his becoming a beggar.

2) Instead of “futerland” Bronya Sakina sang “geboyrn-land” which strikes me as folkier and more appropriate, though in one of the Folklor-lider versions, the daughter does use “foterland” as well.

3) Instead of LSW’s “derkh mayn kharakter”, – “because of my character”, – others sing “durkh a libe” and “durkh a gelibter– “because of a love”, “because of beloved”. This also strikes me as the older concept and more in line with the whole song.

4)  Instead of  LSW’s “untershtitsung” – “nedove” is more traditional.  Both mean “alms”, “donation”.

5) LSW sings “iftsishteln di hant” – “to raise up the hand”. Usually that would be “oystsushtrekn di hant” – “to reach out your hand”.

6) For the last line she sings “vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.” (“because this is the one who was my lover”) but shorter and to the point is “vayl dos iz mayn gelibter geveyn” (because he was my lover”). BSG sang it this way.

TRANSLITERATION
1)  Mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
Oy, mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gedakht.
Oy, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
az man gelibter shteyt leybn mayn bet.

2)  Oy a khulem tokhter tur men nit gleybn
Vayl a khulem makht dem mentshn tsim nar.
Morgn veln mir tsi dem rebe furn.
A pidyen veln mir im geybn derfar.

3)  Vus ken mir den der rebe helfn?
Tsi ken er mir geybn deym vus eykh hob lib?
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn.
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.

Spoken:  Leylb Kahn says  “Dos gantse lid”

LSW: “Es geyt nokh vater.”
Leybl: “Lomir hern vayter.”
Spoken: LSW – “Es dakht zikh ir, az der khusn
kimt aran..”

4) Hots rakhmunes af mir libe mentshn
hots rakhmunes af mir in a noyt.
mit alem gitn zol nor Gotenyu bentshn.
Hots rakhmones un shenkts a shtikl broyt.

5) “Far vus zhe geysti azoy upgerisn?
Shemst zikh nisht iftsishteln di hant?
Fin vanen di bist bin ikh naygerik tsi visn.
Rif mir un dayn futerland.

6) Geboyrn bin eykh in a groys hoz.
Dertsoygn bin eykh eydl un raykh,
derkh mayn kharakter bin eykh urem gevorn
in intershtitsing beyt eykh du fin aykh.

7) Tsi vilt ir mir epes shenkn?
Git zhet mir in lozts mekh du nisht shteyn.
Tits mikh nit azoy fil krenken,
Vayl dus hob eykh mir mitgenemen aleyn.

8) Oy, mamenyu gib im shoyn a neduve.
Gib im shoyn un loz im do nisht shteyn.
Gib im avek a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.
Gib im shoyn a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.

TRANSLATION
1)  Mama, I dreamed a dream,
oh mame, a dream i had imagined.
Oh a dream i had dreamed,
That my love was near my bed.
[..stands near me at night]

2)  O daughter, a dream should not be believed.
Because a dream can lead you astray.
Tomorrow we will travel to the Rebbe
and give him payment for this.

3)  O, how can the Rebbe help me.
Can he give me the one I love?
In my heart he will always remain.
Till my dark grave.

SPOKEN:
Leylb Kahn: The whole song
LSW: There is more.
Leybl: Let’s hear more.
LSW: She thinks that her groom has entered…

4) “Take pity on me dear people.
Take people on me in my need.
May God bless you with all good things.
Take pity and give a piece of bread.”

5)  “Why are you going around in rags?
Are you not ashamed to hold out your hand?
Where are you from? I would like to know.
Tell me your fatherland.”

6)  “I was born in a big house,
Raised noble and wealthy.
Because of my character, I became poor,
and for a donation from you I now beg.”

7)  “Do you want to give me some alms?
Then give me and don‘t leave me standing here.
Don‘t torture me so,
For I have already suffered enough.”

8)  “O mother give alms right now,
Give him now, and don‘t let him stand there.
Give him away a half of our fortune,
For he was once my beloved.”

screen-shot-2018-02-08-at-4-15-21-pm.pngkholem itzik2

Folklor-lider Volume 2 1936, pp. 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe”:
12

and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”:

34

Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34, ed. Moyshe Beregovski,  pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355:

Beregovski Mame A

“Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008:
MagidMameAkholem

Post edited for web by Samantha Shokin.

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“Rosh-yeshivenik” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Rosh-yeshivenik, is sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, from Zvinyetchke, Bukovina. She was recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in the Bronx.

It is a song to pass the time, using the alef-beys (Yiddish alphabet), as its structure. The first son’s name “Avreml” starts with an alef, the second son’s name “Burekhl” with a beys, the third son’s name “Getsl” with a gimel and so on. In other versions, after the naming of ten sons, ten daughters are then named. 

In Folklor-lider, Volume Two, edited by Z. Skudutski (Moscow, 1936) pages 374-375, we have a Yiddish song text with no melody on a similar theme:

Yisgadal veyisgadash shmey rabo, [opening of the kaddish prayer]
Vos amol iz geven iz haynt nishto. [What was is no more]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Amol iz geven a yid a oysher, [Once there was a rich man]
iz er geven a kaptsen a groyser,  [who was very poor]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Hot er gehat tsen tekhter  [He had 10 daughters]
Di ershte hot geheysn Osenyu [The first letter is an alef]
Di tsveyte hot geheysn Beylenyu [The first letter is a beys]

This is followed by a similar Ukrainian song text.

I have only heard the word “Rosh-yeshivenik” in this song. The usual word is just “Rosh-yeshive” (director of a yeshiva, or religious school for boy) and I have to wonder whether in an earlier version it was not “Yeshuvnik”, a simple village Jew who was often made fun of.

What I enjoy about LSW’s singing here is how the “oy” ornamentation, of which she is the master, is used for a humorous effect. In a way, she is parodying her own singing style: the words are bringing us only good news, but the “oys” and “oy veys” are comically telling us the opposite.

Der rosh-yeshivenik
S’iz a mul iz geven a rosh-yeshivenik.
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Once there was a Rosh-yeshivenik [Director of a Yeshiva]
Oy, oy, a Rosh-yeshivenik
Oy, oy,  a rosh-yeshivenek
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazel khasene gehat.
Oy, oy,  khasene gehat.
Oy, oy khasene gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, khasene gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, got married
Oy, oy got married.
Oy, oy, got married.
Oy vey, oy vey, got married.


Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazl kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, kindelekh gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, had chidren.
Oy, oy, had children.
Oy, oy had children
Oy vey, oy vey had children

Dos ershte hot geheysn Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy vey, oy vey, Avreymele.

The first one was called Avreymele.
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy vey, Oy vey Avreymele.

Dos tsveyte hot geheysn Burekhl.
Oy, oy Burekhl.
Oy, oy, Burekhl
Oy vey, Oy vey, Burekhl.

The second one was called Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy vey, Oy vey Burekhl.

Dos drite hot geheysn Getsele.
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy vey, oy vey Getsele.

The third one was called Getsele.
Oy, oy Geltsele.
Oy, oy Getsele
Oy vey, Oy vey Getsele.

roshyeshiva1roshyeshiva2

Shmad Ballads Performed by Zelda Roif and Libe Manuel

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

When ballads have been presented on the Yiddish Song of the Week we have sometimes emphasized the parallels with other international ballads. This week we present a ballad type that is not to be found internationally, certainly not in the Anglo-British-American tradition – a ballad that describes the conversion of a child to the Christian faith; a shmad-ballad. The verb shmadn in Yiddish means to convert to Christianity.

This week’s entry has two versions of the same shmad-ballad. There are a number of others and judging by the geographic spread of the singers, we could conclude that it is at least as old as the 19th century.

1) The first version Zitst di mome (As Mother is Sitting) comes to us courtesy of the AHEYM (Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memoirs) project at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. This project has been directed by professors Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeff Weidlinger. Special thanks to AHEYM project manager Anya Quilitzch who prepared the video clip.

The singer Zelda Roif  of Kishinev (Chișinău), Moldova, sings in her Bessarabian dialect, marked especially by her toto-mome-loshn. Tate (father) in her dialect becomes tote, mame becomes mome and geshmadt becomes geshmodt (converted). Her version has a distinctly Romanian flavor since the daughter Sonyele falls in love with a shepherd (cioban).

In classic ballad form, the first few verses set the action then turn into a dialogue between mother and daughter, in which the mother tries to convince her daughter not to convert. The mother fails and the last two lines spoken by the daughter – “I can’t stand the Jewish faith” is quite a powerful (unhappy) ending.

2) The second ballad Bentsik der shoykhet (Bentsik the Ritual Slaughterer) is sung by Lillian Manuel of Suchowola in northeast Poland, and the recording and comments were provided by her grandson, the Yiddish linguist Dovid Braun.

By comparing the two ballads we see the similar dialogue structure though in different settings. The ending of Bentsik der shoykhet is also quite shocking.

The Yiddish shmad-ballad song type deserves a longer analysis than is possible here. Among other versions collected is one in Sofia Magid’s work printed in “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic (Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) – “Rokhele” (pages 288-289) recorded in Volyn, 1928. The Magid version is a variant of the two presented today and recounts how Rokhele ran away with the priest’s son. In the longer text provided (page 555) a similar dialogue between parent and daughter can be found. A recording of the song is included in the DVD that comes with the volume.

Please find Yiddish texts at the end of this posting.

ZITST DI MAME (Performed by Zelda Roif, Kishinev, Moldova)


Zitst di mame un
arbet a zok.
Kimt men ir zogn,
az ir tokhter Sonyele hot zikh geshmodt.


Mother is sitting and
mending a sock,
when they come to tell her
that her Sonyele has converted.

Loyft zi zi zikhn,
tsvishn ole shkheynim.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
iz nishtu bay keynem.

So she runs to search her
among all the neighbors.
And her daughter Sonyele
is not found by anyone.

Loyft zi zi zikhn
tsi tshubanes tir.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
shteynt akeygn ir.

So she runs to look for her
at the door of the shepherd.
And her daughter Sonyele
is standing across from her.

Sonyele, Sonyele
kim tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gibn
vus di vi’st aleyn.

Sonyele, Sonyele
Come home to me.
I will give you
whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gibn
kleyder un dan..
in a yidish yingele
far ayn man.

I will give you
clothes and then..
and a Jewish boy
for a husband.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit shikh un kaloshn.
Vest khasene hobm far tshuban (In Romanian= cioban)
vesti oysgeyn far a groshn.

At my place you wore
shoes and boots.
If you marry the shepherd
you will die for a penny.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit a vas, zadn kleyd.
Vest khasene hobn far Tshuban
vesti vashn yidish greyt.

With me, you wore
a white, silk dress.
If you marry the shepherd
you will wash Jewish laundry.

[Spoken]
Hot zi geentfert der miter:
She answered her mother:

Trabt avek man miter
ikh ken zi nisht ladn.
Di yidishe nemune
Ikh ken zi nisht farladn.

Drive away my mother,
I can’t stand her.
The Jewish faith
I can’t stand it.

BENTSIK DER SHOYKHET (sung by Lillian Manuel, known in her shtetl Suchowola, NE Poland, as “Libe Yankl dem shvartsns”, to her grandson David / Dovid Braun, in the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged, Bronx, NY, ca. 1988)  *see comments by David/Dovid Braun at the end of this translation.

Bentsik der shoykhet mitn zaydenem khalat;
Feygele zayn tokhter hot zikh opgeshmadt.

Bentsik the [kosher] slaughterer with his silken robe;
Feygele his daughter has converted to Christianity.

Bentsik der shoykhet shpant ayn ferd-un-vogn
kedey er zol kenen zayn Feygelen deryogn.

Bentsik the slaughterer hitched up his horse and wagon,
So that he could catch up to his Feygele.

Bentsik der shoykhet geyt arayn in a kvartir.
Gefunen hot er Feygelen bam kloyster fun tir [in kloyster bam tir].

Bentsik the slaughterer goes into an inn.
What he’s found is Feygele in church by the door.

“Kum aher mayn tokhter, kum tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gebn vos du vilst aleyn.”

“Come here my daughter, come home to me.
I will give you whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gebn gelt un nadan
un tsu dertsu a sheynem yungn-man.”

I will give you money and dowry
and on top of that a handsome young man.”

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di fis
un im af tselokhes dem sheygets a kish.

Bentsik the slaughterer, he falls to their feet
and to spite him, [she gives] the gentile boy a kiss.

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di tishn [griber]
un im af tselokhes tseylemt zi zikh iber.

Bentsik the slaughterer falls to the tables [graves, pits],
and to spite him she crosses herself.

Feygele iz gegangen in zaydene zokn.
Az zi vet peygern vet klingen di glokn.

Feygele was wearing silken socks/stockings.
When she croaks, the [church] bells will ring.

Af morgn bay tog:   a yomer, a klog!
Bentsik der shoykhet iz geshtorbn in mitn tog.

The next afternoon:   alas and alack!
Bentsik the slaughterer died in the middle of the day.

Notes by David Braun:

In the Yiddish original, I have placed in square brackets [ ] a few words Mrs. Manuel sang on an occasion a few years earlier when in better health and with a yet crisper memory. It is clear how those words make better sense and/or form a more satisfactory rhyme. Also, the final two stanzas were reversed in that earlier rendition, which makes more sense: walking neither with shoes nor barefoot but in socks or stockings is a sign of mourning. So first her father Bentsik has died, then she has donned traditional Jewish mourning garb, and finally we are warned that when the end comes for her, the apostate, mourning will be signaled by church bells.

After first becoming acquainted with this song in her repertoire, I compared her version to others in the folkloristic literature and discovered that in some, the gentile youth who is the object of Feygele’s romantic interest is named. With that information, I jogged her memory and ended up eliciting this additional stanza that she doesn’t sing on the recording – it clearly belongs after the stanza following Bentsik’s promise of dowry and all other good things. Feygele insists:

Kh’vil nit kayne kleyder, kh’vil nit kayn nadan.
Aleksandern hob ikh lib un er vet zayn mayn man.

‘I don’t want any clothes, I don’t want any dowry.
Alexander is who I love and he will be my husband.’

With this stanza, we’re enlightened as to what’s behind Feygele’s conversion from yiddishkayt, and religious philosophy doesn’t seem to be the motivating factor.
zitstdimome

zitztdimome2

 

bentzishokhet

“Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

„Shtey shoyn of tokhter mayn getraye‟ (“Wake Up My Faithful Daughter”) is the only Yiddish song I know that mentions coffee, and though I drink 3 double espressos daily, I thought I would post this song sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) for a different reason: a recent interesting article on family violence and Yiddish song written by Adrienne Cooper and Sarah Gordon. Originally published in Lilith magazine, and republished on-line on the Arty Semite blog of the Forward newspaper (in four parts).

In the first song example given in that essay – „A gutn ovnt Brayne‟, the first stanza ends with „zint ikh hob dem merder derkent‟ („Since I‘ve known this murderer‟). As you can also see in the song „Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye‟, merder/murderer is apparently another way to say „wife beater‟ in Yiddish.

As for „Shtey shoyn of‟ – LSW sings the first verse beautifully, somehow getting off track in the second verse – it‘s a line too short, and the melody changes – and then again getting back on track in the third verse and ending the powerful and sad song with her emotional style.

Musically, listen to the way she ornaments so subtly with „oy‟. Textually – in three short verses with vivid imagery we have a complete, melancholy short story in the classic mother-daughter dialogue form, so common in Yiddish folksong.

I think it‘s particularly touching that the mother has the final word. Perhaps other singers or versions perform additional verses in which the daughter responds; I have not found any, and this version certainly fits into LSW‘s gloomy view of the woman‘s world; a woman recently married, no less. This recording of LSW was made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954.

Oy shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
dayne lipelekh zenen dir farshmakht.
Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
dayn kave zi shteyt shoyn fartik gemakht.
Shtey shoyn af tokhter mayn getraye
Dayn kave, zi shteyt dir fartik gemakht.

O wake up my faithful daughter,
Your lips are so pale; [literally – languished, fading]
Wake up my faith daughter,
your coffee is waiting for you, already made.

Oy mame, oy miter, vos toyg mir mayn leybn af der velt?
Az dem vos ikh hob lib ken ikh nit nemen,
mit vemen vel ikh opfirn mayn velt?
Az dem vos ikh hob lib ken ikh nit nemen,
mit vemen vel ikh opfirn mayn velt?

O mama, o mother, what good is my life in the world?
If I cannot take the one I love
with whom shall I spend my life? [literally – conduct my world]

Oy, dayne bekelekh hobn geblit vi di royte epelekh
far ayn glik hob ikh mir dus forgeshtelt.
haynt, az di bist arayn tsu dem merder in di hent aran.
af eybik hot er farimert dir dayn velt.
di bist arayn tsu dem merder in di hent arayn.
oy, af eybik hot er farimert dir di velt.

O your cheeks were blooming like the red apples,
I imagined this meant happiness.
Now, that you have fallen into that murderer‘s hands,
he has forever saddened your world.


“Di fishelekh in vaser” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di fishelekh in vaser (The Fish in Water) was one of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer‘s most beloved songs to perform (for more on Rymer see the previous posting on Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher). The performer Michael Alpert learned it from him (Alpert was present at this recording, done at a zingeray, or singing session, at our dining room table) and then taught others the song at KlezKamp and other festivals and workshops. The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Shtreiml have recorded Rymer‘s version.

The song itself is a typical Yiddish mother-daughter folksong [see Robert Rothstein “The Mother-Daughter Dialogue in the Yiddish Folk Song: Wandering Motifs in Time and Space,” New York Folklore 15 (1989), 1-2:51-65.] But the couplet “I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas/I sought to fall in love (or have a love affair), but cannot attain it” is unique to this song.

The closest printed version I have found is in Folklor lider, Moscow 1936 vol. 2, Z. Skuditski/M. Viner, vol. 2, page 155, recorded in Bela Tservkva (Yiddish – „Shvartse tume‟), Ukraine, 1926 (see their footnotes for similar verses in other collections).

In this recording made at our home around 1980, Rymer sings with great passion and his exclamations of „mame mayne!‟ says it all. When I first heard this recording after many years, it bothered me to hear others at the table join in with Rymer. But I realized that this was how we learned the songs ourselves – singing along, missing a word at first here and there, until we got it right.

Oy, fishelekh in vaser,  zey iz fil beser.
Bay zey iz nit keyn untersheyd, fin klener biz tsu greser.
Oy, fishelekh in vaser, zey iz fil beser.
Bay zey iz nit keyn untersheyd, fun klener biz tsu greser.

O the fish in water, they have it much better.
They don‘t make a difference
between the smaller ones and bigger ones.

„Oy vey tokhter, s‘badarf azoy nit zayn.
Der zeyger hot shoyn tsvelef geshlugn, kim in shtib arayn.‟
„Der zeyger hot shoyn tsevelf geshlugn, kh‘hob moyre far mayn tatn.‟
„Kum zhe shoyn in shtib aran, s‘vet dir gurnisht shatn. „

„O dear daughter, it shouldn‘t be this way.
The clock has already struck twelve, come inside the home.‟
„The clock has already struck twelve, I‘m afraid of father.‟
„Come on inside, nothing will happen to your‟

„Oy vey mame, fartsap mir nit mayn blit,
lomikh mit im reydn, nokh a pur minit.
Ikh bin a meydele mit farshtand, seykhl un gedanken,
a libe shpiln hot zikh mir farglist, ikh kon es nisht derlangen.‟

„O dear mother, don‘t suck my blood,
Let me talk to him, just a few more minutes.
I am a girl with understanding, common sense and ideas.
I sought to fall in love, but I cannot attain it.‟

Fil muzikantn shpiln, mame, oyfn frayen feld.
Ikh hob farshpilt mayn lebn, mame, kh‘ob farshpilt mayn velt.
Ih hob farshpilt mayn leybn, mame, tsures un a shir,
tsi bashraybn mayne layden, klekt nit keyn papir. 

Many musicians, mother mine, play in the open field.
I have lost my life, mother, I have lost my world.
I have lost my life, mother, troubles without end.
To describe my sorrows, no amount of paper would suffice.

Oy, fil brilyantn, mame mayne, hob ikh shoyn gezeyn.
Nor ven ikh kik zikh tsi tsi zey, zenen zey gemeyn.
Nor eyn brilyant, mame mayne, ligt mir nor in zinen.
Un vu ikh gey, un vu ikh shtey, ikh kon im nit gefinen. 
Nor eyn brilyant, mame mayne, ligt mir nor in zinen.
Un vu ikh gey, un vu ikh shtey, ikh kon im nit gefinen.

Many gems, mother mine, have I already seen.
But when I look at them, I find them coarse. 
But one gem, mother mine, do I have in my mind,
And wherever I go, wherever I stand, I cannot find him.