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“Es hot geshneyet un geregnt” Performed by Esther Gold

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2018 by yiddishsong

Es hot geshneyet un geregnt (Dos borvese meydele)
It was Snowing and Raining (The Barefoot Girl)
text by Morris Rosenfeld, sung by Esther Gold
Recorded by Dr. Diane Gold in 1983 in Massachusetts

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s recording  was sent to me by Joe (Yosl) Kurland, Yiddish singer, songwriter, teacher  based in Western Massachusetts. It was recorded by the singer’s granddaughter Diane Gold so that Kurland could sing it at the bar-mitsve of her three sons.

As one can tell from this moving performance, the song meant a lot to Esther Gold since she had learned it from her father in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Esther Gold (1900 – 1984) was born in Bryansk, Russia (southwest of Moscow) and came to New York in 1906.

gold pic 1Esther Gold (center) with parents & brothers 

Kurland realized that she sang the song to the same melody as David Edelshtadt’s song In kamf (Mir zaynen gehast un getribn) and combined the two at the bar-mitsves.

The text is by the great “sweatshop poet” Morris Rosenfeld and can be found in Volume II of his Shriftn (Writings). We are attaching the poem from that 1912 publication where it is called Tsu a borvose meydl – To a Barefoot Girl.

The original poem has twelve verses, Esther Gold sings nine. I have transcribed the words as Gold sings them which are incredibly accurate compared to the original. On occasion I have put in brackets the original word or phrase as found in Rosenfeld’s poem if different. The singer forgets one line in verse eight and I have put the original text in its place.

Significantly, the order of the last three verses differs from Rosenfeld’s. She ends the poem with the verse that suggests the barefoot girl could become a prostitute. A very powerful ending indeed. But the poet placed that verse third from the end, and concludes with Gold’s verse seven in which he worries about his own child.

Esther husband babyEsther Gold with her husband Isador (“Izzie”) and son H. Carl (“Chaim”) Gold (Carl is Diane Gold’s father).

Diane Gold writes about her grandmother, Esther Gold and about the song:

Our Grandma Esther was born in Bryansk (Russia), the daughter of Dina and Elhanan (Harris) Scheinin, and young sister to Eddie (Aaron) and Joe. I believe there was another sibling who died in childhood. Her grandmother came from Starodub and her grandfather came from Kriemenchuck (Kremenchuk, Ukraine). The birthdate she was given when they arrived at Ellis Island in 1906 was January 1, 1900. She died on December 28, 1984.

Harris, who was a fine tailor in Russia, came by ship to NYC in 1906, a little earlier in the year than Dina (a midwife) and the children. My father Carl, who grew up in the same household as his grandfather, remembers Harris as a gentle man with high principals who insisted that Carl never put his hands behind his back, as it was important not to be hiding things from people. Harris insisted on looking for fine tailoring work and according to the family was injured demonstrating against sweated labor and even against union leaders who were in league with the bosses. Not surprisingly he had trouble finding work, and this made for tensions and sadness in the family. He banned Esther from working in garment factories.

Esther learned the Borvese meydl song as a girl by his side at home, and I imagine him singing to her as he sewed and pressed clothing. The words of this song were real to him, I am certain. He worried about the fate of his children, and children who were even worse off than his immediate family. I am not surprised, given his politics and background that the version of the song he shared with Esther was put to the tune of In Kamf. 

The siblings worked as children and teenagers.  Dina berated Joe for selling newspapers and chewing gum, but took the money. As a teenager Esther, who must have been a gay flapper with a love of show tunes, got a job splicing film at Universal Studios in New York, where she met our grandfather Isador Gold, who was a photographer in Europe in WWI and did some of the first silent film newsreels. Living under the magnifying glass of the demanding and bewildered older generation, that marriage sadly fell apart and my dad grew up without a father, with his mom in his grandparents’ household. For a while Esther kept the books (and I think the accounts) for our great-uncle Joe, who eventually flourished financially in the New York cement business. Then, from when I was little, I remember Esther was a “salesgirl” in the girl’s department at B. Altman’s, living alone after her parents died in her rent controlled apartment at 110 Post Avenue. She only moved to be with us in Newington, Connecticut in the last years of her life, with no savings or pension after years of work, after she became blind. She was a petit determined intelligent loving grandma harboring memories damping her capacity for joy, which bubbled up when she talked about her girlfriends, when she dressed us in the finest clothes from Altman’s, when she kvelled at our accomplishments or when she sang.

Thanks to Joe (Yosl) Kurland, and Dr. Diane Gold and family.

TRANSLITERATION

1) Es hot dort geshneyt un geregnt
un geyendik shnel durkhn gas.
A meydele hob ikh bagegnt
halb naket un borves un nas.

2) Zi hot mit di nakete fislekh
gepatsht dem fargosenem bruk.
Un epes azoy vi fardrislekh
geshaynt hot ir kindisher kuk.

3) Kleyn meydele zog mir vu geystu?
Durkh regn, durkh shney un durkh kelt?
Zog mir mayn kind tsi farshteystu
vi iberik du bist oyf der velt?

4) Di velt velkhe lozt dir do zukhn
a lebn durkh elnt un leyd.
Un vil dayne fis nit bashukhn
nit haltn dayn guf in ayn [a] kleyd.

5) Zog, zaynen dir fremd di gefiln?
Tsi falt gor nit ayn der gedank,
ven du zolst zikh itstert farkiln
dan falstu avek un bist krank.

6) Ver vet dir damols kurirn?
Ver vet far dir epes ton?
Di velt velkhe lozt dir farfrirn,
Der Got velkher kukt [dir] nit on?

7) Derfar muz ikh veynen un klogn.
Es ken eykh zayn mit mayn kind
ven mir (mikh) zoln tsores dershlogn,
un ir zol farvarfn der vint.

8) Derfar muz ikh veynen un klogn.
Derfar heyb ikh uf a geshrey.
Derfar (nor, yo, volt ikh dikh kishn)
Tsu helfn tsu shtiln mayn (dayn) vey.

9) Dayn borveskeyt, kind, dayne trern
dayn geyn un nit visn a vu.
veys ikh, vos es ken vern
fun meydlekh, azelkhe vi du.

TRANSLATION

1) It was snowing and raining,
and while walking down the street,
I encountered a girl
half naked, barefoot and wet.

2) With her bare feet
she slapped the pavings stones.
And, in what looked like regret,
her childlike appearance shone.

3) Little girl, tell me where you’re going
in this rain, through the snow and cold
Tell me my child, do you understand
how superfluous you are in this world?

4) The world that lets you search here
for a lonely suffering life.
And does not want to shoe your feet
and not clothe your body in a dress.

5) Tell me, do you have these feelings
or does it not occur to you,
that if you were to catch cold here,
you’d be struck down and be sick.

6) Who would then heal you?
Who would do something for you?
The world that lets you freeze?
The God who does not even look at you?

7) Therefore I must cry and lament:
it could also happen to my child;
when sorrows would depress me,
and the wind would blow her far away.

8) Therefore I must weep and lament;
Therefore I raise up a cry.
Therefore, yes,  [I would kiss you ]
to help you quiet my [your] pain.

9) You being barefoot, child, your tears,
your wandering not knowing where;
I know what could become
of girls such as you.

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Below is Tsu a borvose meydl – To a Barefoot Girl, from Shriftn (Writings), Vol. II, pp. 143-145 by Morris Rosenfeld (1912, New York):

mrosenfeld1mrosenfeld2.jpeg<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-4273" src="https://yiddishsong.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/mrosenfeld3-e1540485244566.jpeg&quot; alt="mrosenfeld3" width="564" height="186" /

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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.
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