Archive for death

Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2019 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.

sorrento

This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

TRANSLITERATION
Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

TRANSLATION
Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

TRANSCRIPTION
Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

TRANSLATION
Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

TRANSLITERATION
Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

TRANSLATION
With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:
ReyzlWords1ReyzlWords3ReyzlWords4ReyzlWords5ReyzlWords2

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0

“Az in droysn geyt a reygn vern di shteyner nas” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2019 by yiddishsong

Az in droysn geyt a reygn vern di shteyner nas
When It Rains Outside the Stones Get Wet

Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
BSG recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx, 1980s; LSW recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG) learned this lyrical love song from her mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), and LSW probably learned it in her hometown of Zvinyetshke, Bukovina. At this “zingeray” (song sharing session) in the Gottesman home, one can hear other singers featured on “Yiddish Song of the Week” – Tsunye Rymer and Ita Taub  joining in:

Leybl Kahn had years earlier recorded LSW singing the same song; so we have a rare opportunity to compare the singing of the same song by mother and daughter:

In this performance BSG leaves out the second verse which she usually included. LSW does include that verse.  I have transcribed and translated both versions though they are very similar.

Both versions have the wonderful rhyme of “khipe” (wedding canopy) with “klipe” (shrew or an evil spirit that won’t leave you alone).

aznin droysn image

Painting by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

A recording of BSG singing this song with all the verses appears on the CD “Bay mayn mames shtibele” (At My Mother’s House, 2004) with violin accompaniment by Alicia Svigals

At the beginning and end of the LSW recording the collector Leybl Kahn sounds confused because LSW had just sung for him another song beginning with the same line “Az in droysn geyt a reygn”.

 BSG TRANSLITERATION

Az in droysn geyt a reygn,
vern di shteyndelekh nas.
Un az a meydele shpilt a libe
vern ire bekelekh blas.

Second verse that she left out:
Un az zi shpilt shoyn oys di libe
farlirt zi dokh ire farbn.
Un az zi shpilt nisht oys di libe,
miz zi dokh yingerheyt shtarbn]

Vos dreysti dikh mame far mayne oygn?
Dreyst dekh nor vi a klipe.
Kh’vel mit im avekforn in an anderer medine
un vel mit im shteln a khipe. 

Oy, un a shadkhn, oy vey iz der mamen,
vet ir zikh beyde nemen?
Say ez vet dir git geyn, say es vet dir shlekht geyn –
far keyn kind vil ekh dikh mer nisht kenen. 

Az in droysn geyt a reygn,
vern di shteyndelekh nas.
Un az a meydele shpilt a libe
vern ire bekelekh blas.

BSG TRANSLATION 

Outside, when it rains
the stones get wet.
And when a girl falls in love
her cheeks get pale.

Second verse that she left out:
And if the love is successful
she loses her colors.
And if the love is unrequited
then she must die

Why are you always before my eyes, mother.
You’re clinging to me like an evil spirit.
I will run away with him to a foreign land
and marry him under a canopy.

“Without a matchmaker, woe is to your mother,
you will take each other?
I don’t care if things go well, or bad with you.
I will no longer  consider you as my child”

Outside, when it rains
the stones get wet.
And when a girl falls in love
her cheeks get pale.

LSW VERSION TRANSLITERATION

Az in droysn geyt a reygn
vern di shteyndelekh nas.
In az a meydele shpilt a libe
vern ir di bekelekh blas.

In az zi shpilt di libe
vert zi dokh un di farbn
In az zi shpilt nisht oys di libe
miz zi dekh yingerheyt shtarbn.

Vus dreysti dikh, mametshkele, far mayne oygn.
Di dreyst dekh arim vi a klipe.
Ikh vel mit im avekfurn in a fremder medine
un vel mit im shteln a khipe. 

Un a shadkhn oy vey iz der mame
vet ir aykh beyde nemen.
Say es vet aykh git zayn, say ez vet aykh shlekht zan
Far keyn kind, vil ikh dekh mer nit kenen. 

Say es vet aykh git zayn, say ez vet aykh shlekht zayn
Far keyn kind, vil ikh dekh mer nit kenen.
Say es vet dir git zayn, say ez vet aykh shlekht zayn
Far keyn kind, vil ikh dekh mer nit kenen. 

LSW TRANSLATION

Outside, when it rains
the stones get wet.
And when a girl has a love
her cheeks get pale.

And if the love is successful
she loses her colors.
and if the love unrequited
then she must die

Why are you always before my eyes, mother.
You’re clinging to me like an evil spirit.
I will run away with him to a foreign land
and marry him under a canopy.

“Without a matchmaker, woe is to your mother,
you will take each other?
I don’t care if things go well, or bad with you.
I will no longer consider you as my child”

droysn1droysn2droysn3

droysn4

droysn5b

“Oy sheyn bin ikh a mol gevezn” Performed by Leah (Lillian) Kolko

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by yiddishsong

Oy sheyn bin ikh a mol gevezn / O, I Was Once Beautiful
Sung by Leah (Lillian) Kolko, recorded in Camp Boiberik, Rhinebeck, NY by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1974

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Leah Kolko remembers learning this song when active in the youth branch of the Poale-Zion organization in Paterson, New Jersey in the the early 1920s. The recording here was made at Camp Boiberik in 1974 by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 10.10.45 AM

Image by Tsirl Waletzky

The rhyme “trovern” [instead of troyern] and “movern” [instead of moyern] indicates the song has its origin in the Ukraine. but dialectically speaking, the song is inconsistent.

TRANSLITERATION

Oy sheyn bin ikh a mol gevezn.
[Oy] vi der morgn shtern hob ikh geshaynt.
oy, zint ikh hob zikh mit dir bakont,
oy, fun tog tsu tog ver ikh mer krank. 

Ikh hob gemeynt az af dayne reyd
[Oy] ken men shteln movern [moyern]
Tsum sof hostu mir mayn kop fardreyt,
az ikh hob tsu veynen un tsu trovern. 

Shpatsirn zaynen mir gegangen
ale shabes oyfn bulevar.
Oy, dayne reyd hob ikh gegloybt.
Oy, bin ikh geven a groyser nar.

Du vest zikh nokh a mol on mir dermonen,
vayl keyner hot dir nit azoy lib.
Oy, du vest forn un vest mikh zukhn,
nor ikh vel zayn shoyn fun lang in grib.

TRANSLATION

O, I was once beautiful.
O, like the morning star did I shine.
O, since I got to know you,
O, with each passing day I feel more ill. 

I thought that upon your words
I could build stone walls.
In the end you turned my head around
so that I cry and mourn. 

We used to take a walk
every Sabbath along the boulevard.
O, I believed in your words.
O, what a fool I was. 

Someday you will remember me
for no one loved you as much as I.
You will travel all over and will search me
but I will have long been in the grave.
Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 10.08.04 AM

“Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2019 by yiddishsong

Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern? / How did I get so many tears?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Zwiniacze 040Zvinyetchke (Zwiniacza), Bukovina (now Ukraine),
hometown of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Another sad love song from the 1890s Bukovina repertoire of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman. This is not the only song in which she rhymes “shpekulirn” and “krapirn”, words which reflect her Austria-Hungarian upbringing. I have yet to find other versions or verses to the song.

Thanks to David Braun for help with this week’s post.

TRANSLITERATION

Vi nemt zikh tse mir azoy fil trern?
Tsi iz den mayn kop mit vaser fil?
Ven vet mayn veynen shoyn ofhern?
Ven vet mayn veytik shvaygn shtil?

Ikh heyb nor un mit dir tse shpekulirn
ver ikh krank un mid vi der toyt.
Oy, ver se shpilt a libe, der miz ying krapirn.
Geyn avek miz ikh fin der velt.

TRANSLATION

How did I get so many tears?
Is my head full of water?
When will my weeping cease?
When will my pain be silent.

When I just start to gamble with you,
I become deadly sick and tired.
O, whoever has a love affair will croak:
I have to leave this world.
Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 10.20.11 AM

“Der dishvasher” Performed by Harris

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der dishvasher / The Dishwasher
A song by Herman Yablokoff sung by “Harris”.
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman in the apartment of Tevye (Tobias)  un Merke (Mary) Levine, Bronx, 1983.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This 1930s song is by Yiddish actor and singer Herman Yablokoff (1903 – 1981)  His original version can be heard here:

The song can be heard more recently at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music in 2001, sung by Cantor Robert Abelson. That web page also has extensive notes, translations and transliterations of the original version.

The singer “Harris”  (I only remember him by this name) has dropped and changed a number of lines from Yablokoff’s original song. An amazing coincidence: the song sheet I found on line and have used here as an illustration has the name “Harris” written on the front! Perhaps it was his. His performance gives one a good sense of the intended pathos, and Yablokoff, writer of the classic song Papirosn (Cigarettes), was indeed the master singer of Yiddish pathos.

TRANSLITERATION

In a restoran hob ikh gezeyn
an altn man in kitshen shteyt.
un in der shtil
zingt er mit gefil:

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt af zikh aleyn dem toyt.

Kh’bin a mul geveyn mit mentshn glaykh.
Gehat a heym, geveyzn raykh.
Itst bin ikh alt.
Keyner vil mikh nit.

Oy kinder fir, gebildet[er?] ir.
Di tokhter, shnir,
shikn mir tsum zin. Der zin er zugt
“Ikh ken gurnit tin”.

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt, oy, af zikh aleyn deym toyt.

TRANSLATION

In a restaurant I once saw
an old man standing in the kitchen
and quietly
he sang with feeling:

“O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray for my own death.”

I once was like all other people;
had a home and was wealthy.
Now I am old
No one wants me.

O, I have educated four children.
My daughter and daughter-in-law send me to my son.
My son says, ” I can do nothing”.

O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray, o, for my own death

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 2.32.47 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-27 at 2.33.44 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-27 at 2.34.00 PM

“Shteyt in tol an alte mil” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by yiddishsong

Shteyt in tol an alte mil / An Old Mill Stands in the Valley
Words by M. M. Shaffir,  Music -“adapted from a Romanian folk melody”
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The poet M. M. Shaffir (1909 -1988) was born in Suchava/Suceava (in Yiddish – “Shots”), Bukovina, Austria-Hungary; today – Romania. He immigrated to Montreal in 1939 and published 18 books of poetry. He was known for his love of Jewish folklore and his expert knowledge of the Yiddish language.

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 1.38.12 PM

M.M. Shaffir, Screen Shot from Cindy Marshall’s Film “A Life of Song: a Portrait of Ruth Rubin”

He was a close friend of the linguist, writer and editor Mordkhe Schaechter, and visited him in the Bronx several times.  At one of these occasions in 1974, the Sholem-Aleichem Cultural Center organized an event honoring his visit and afterward he sang three songs that he had composed at the Gottesman home across the street.

In this post we look at the first of those three songs, a doina-style melody Shteyt in tul an alte mil. He included the words and music in his collection Bay der kholem multer (Montreal, 1983) which are attached.

Several lines in his performance differ from the printed poem. On top of the musical notation, Shaffir wrote “loyt a Romeynishn folksmotiv” – “adapted from a Romanian folk melody.” To compare a Romanian traditional song to Shaffir’s composition Romanian music researcher Shaun Williams suggested listening to this Romanian doina sung by Maria Tanase:

Singer and scholar Michael Alpert also suggested listening to this Romanian “epic ballad”:

In Cindy Marshall’s film “A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin”, Shaffir can be seen in the episode where Rubin records singers in Montreal. The photo of him in this blog is taken from that scene. The entire film can be seen at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Legacy website.

TRANSCRIPTION

1) Shteyt in tul an alte mil.
Veyn ikh dortn in der shtil.
Shteyen dortn verbes tsvey
Veyn ikh oys mayn harts far zey.

2) Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
iz gefaln mayn Andrei.
Ergets af a vistn feld.
Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.

3)Deym boyars tsvey sheyne zin
zenen nisht avek ahin.
Nor Andrei hot men opgeshikt
hot a koyl zayn harts fartsikt.

4) Hot zayn harts zikh opgeshtelt.
Ergets oyf a vistn feld.
Ergets vayt in kelt un shney
S’iz mir vind un s’iz mir vey.

TRANSLATION

An old mill stands in the field
where I cry there quietly.
Two willows are there
and I cry my heart out for them.

Somewhere distant in cold and snow
my Andrei has fallen.
Somewhere on a barren field
his heart stopped beating.

The boyar’s two handsome sons
did not go there.
Only Andrei was sent
and a bullet devoured his heart.

His heart stopped beating
somewhere on a barren field.
Somewhere far in cold and snow,
Woe is me, how it hurts!

From Bay der kholem multer by M.M. Shaffir (Montreal, 1983) pp. 72-73:
Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 2.15.02 PMScreen Shot 2019-02-21 at 2.15.20 PM

“S’iz shvarts in himl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2019 by yiddishsong

S’iz shvarts in himl / The Sky is Black by Avrom Goldfaden
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman.
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman: 

This song about Rebecca in the Bible is a folklorized version of a song written by Avrom Goldfaden. It appears, text only, in his volume Dos yidele, where it is called “Rivkes toyt” (Rebecca’s Death, see scans below). Before the poem, Goldfaden gives this introduction:

In the midrash it says: When Rebecca died, they had to bury her at night so that Esau would not see and follow her to the burial. For if he did so, she would be cursed for having such a son. Jacob had run away to Horon and Isaac was too old. So no one accompanied her at her funeral. 

rebeccacoro“Rebecca at the Well”, painting by Corot, 1839

The midrash addresses the question – why was Rebecca’s death not mentioned in the Torah?

Goldfaden was a master of creating songs that resonated with Yiddish folklore. Though this song is about Biblical figures, it resembles a typical Yiddish orphan song. The second line “S’iz a pakhed af der gas aroystsugeyn” (It is a fright to go out in the street) is the exact same as the second line in the ballad “Fintser glitshik shpeyt ba der nakht“, the first song ever presented on Yiddish Song of the Week. And the last line “Elnt blaybsti du vi a shteyn” (Alone you remain like a stone) is found in other Yiddish orphan songs. In this case, biblical Jacob is the orphan. LSW, in her slow, emotional and mournful style, sings this song about Biblical characters as if it reflected a contemporary, local tragedy.

Two textual changes worth noting:

1) Instead of Goldfaden’s “A mes, a mes” א מת, א מת  (A corpse, a corpse), Lifshe sings “emes, emes” (true, true) אמת אמת. which just by combining the two words into one word, changes the meaning completely. This reminds us of the Golem legend in which “emes” אמת [truth] was written on the Golem’s forehead, but when he was no longer needed, the rabbi wiped off the first letter, the alef א and the Golem became dead מת

2) LSW sings “miter Rukhl” (mother Rachel) instead of “miter Rivke” (mother Rebecca). This can be explained, I believe, by the fact that the appellation “muter/miter Rukhl” is far more common than “muter Rivke”. I  did a Google Search in Yiddish to compare both and “muter Rukhl” won 453 – 65. The Yiddish folksinger would have found the phrase “muter Rivke” strange to the ear. In addition, the matriarch Rachel also had an unusual burial: she was buried far from home, on the road to Efrat, and therefore all alone, as Rebecca.

In the papers of the YIVO Ethnographic Commission there is a version of the song collected in the 1920s or 1930s, singer, collector and town unknown. There too the singer changed “a mes” to “emes” but sang Rivke not Rukhl.

TRANSLITERATION

S’iz shvarts in himl me zeyt nit kayn shtern.
S’iz a pakhid af der gas aroystsugeyn.
Shvartse volkn gisn heyse trern
un der vint, er bluzt mit eyn geveyn.

Emes, emes, ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.
Etlekhe mentshn geyen trit ba trit.
Me trugt deym toytn, ersht a frishn korbn:
indzer miter Rukhl, ver ken zi nit?

Yankl iz dekh fin der heym antlofn.
Er shluft dekh dort af deym altn shteyn.
Shtey of di yusem! Di host dekh shoyn keyn mame nisht.
Elnt blabsti du vi a shteyn.

TRANSLATION

The sky is black, no stars can be seen.
It’s a fright to go out in the street.
Black clouds gush hot tears
and the wind blows with a great cry.

True, true she died not long ago.
Several people walked step by step.
They carry the deceased, a fresh sacrifice:
our mother Rukhl, who doesn’t know her?

Jacob had run away from home.
He sleeps on that old rock.
Wake up you orphan! You no longer have a mother.
You remain alone like a stone.

siz shvarts 1siz shvarts 2

From Goldfadn’s Dos yidele, 1891:

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