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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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“Dos daytshl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The Yiddish Song of the Week is glad to be back after a brief hiatus caused by a hurricane-related telecommunications breakdown.

“Dos Daytshl”  (“The German Guy”) as sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] (see previous posts for her biography) is linguistically the most complicated song yet posted.

The comic ballad is international and found in many languages and is known in the Child canon as “Our Goodman” (#274). The texts have remained remarkably similar through time and languages. My folklore professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kenneth Goldstein, played us a field recording he had made of African-American kids in West Philadelphia singing a rap version of this ballad and the words were almost the exact ones as the Yiddish lyrics LSW sings.

In The Folks Songs of Ashkenaz (pp. 139 – 142) edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel (2001), the editors make an interesting comparison of a Yiddish version found in the Ginsburg-Marek collection to a German version collected in German colonies in southern Russia. Unfortunately, they only compare the texts, though several Yiddish versions with melodies have been printed (for example, one melody of a Yiddish version exists in Yidisher folklor, YIVO 1938). Their brief history of the ballad indicates that the German versions of the song came from a Scottish variant in late 19th century, and after it was published in a German almanac in 1790 it circulated much more widely.

There are many printed Yiddish versions of the song, most recently in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive  (p. 30-31)  edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Their introduction refers to other printed Yiddish versions. On the Yiddish ballad in comparison to other international versions read Chana Mlotek’s “International Motifs in the Yiddish Ballad” in For Max Weinriech on his Seventieth Birthday. The Yiddish ballad was still popular into the 1930s in Eastern Europe.

Since LSW comes from the Bukovina, where Jews were fluent in Yiddish and German, the German element in the song has to be analyzed not just as Germanisms in a Yiddish text, but as to what these German words evoke when sung by a Yiddish folksinger who is performing a comic song making fun of a German. Does the singing of  “Eyns, tsvey, drey” and not “dray” which would be the correct form in both Yiddish and German, indicate a funny hypercorrection of a German based word in Yiddish?

Of course, it’s not just any German being made fun of here, but a German peasant or farmer. The Germanisms also imply that such a song about a cuckold would “never” be sung about a Jewish husband and wife. Since LSW usually sings slow mournful songs it’s refreshing to hear her sing a comic song with such gusto and drama.

Click here to listen to Lifshe Schaechter-Widman performing “Dos daytshl”

Dos daytshl
The German Guy

Kum ikh zikh arayn in kukhl
Gefin ikh zikh – okh un vey!
In kukhl hengen zeybls –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter my kitchen
What do I find – woe is me!
In the kitchen are hanging swords,
One and two and twee.

Dan rukh ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin
“Kindkhin vos iz dos?
Vos far a zeybls hengen dort?
Akh vi ruft men dos?”

So I call in my wife
Dear child, what is this?
What are those swords hanging there,
What do you call them?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
vos zeystu zeybls dort?
Bratfanen zenen dort,
vos mayn muter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
what swords do you see there?
Frying pans are there
that my mother sent to me

Kum ikh zikh arayn in shtale,
gefin ikh zikh – okh un vey!
In shtale shteyen ferde –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter the stalls,
and what do I find – woe is me!
In the stalls are standing horses,
One and two and twee.

Dan rukh ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin –
kindkhin vos iz dos?
Vos far a ferde shteyen dort,
akh vi ruft men dos?

So I call in my wife,
Dear child what is this?
What are those horses standing there,
what do you call it?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
dos zint kayn [?] ferdchen dort
milikh ki, zenen dort,
vos mayn miter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
Those are not horses there.
Milk cows are there,
that my mother sent to me.

Kum ikh zikh arayn in shloftsimer,
Gefin ikh zikh okh un vey!
In shloftsimer shlofn mener –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter into the bedroom,
What do I find – Woe is me!
In the bedroom men are sleeping,
One and two and three.

Dan ruf ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin
kindkhen vos iz dos?
Vos far a mener shlofn dort –
akh vi ruft men dos?

So I call in my wife,
Wife, what is this?
What men are sleeping there,
How do you call this?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
vos rifsti mener dort.
Dinstmegde zenen dort,
vos mayn muter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
what are calling men over there,
Servant girls are there,
that my mother sent to me.

Dinstmegde (n) mit bakn berd?
Okh un vey un vind
Vos far a man bin ikh bay dir,
az fremde mener komen tsu dir.

Servant girls with bearded cheeks?
Woe is me.
What kind of husband am I to you,
If strange men are visiting.

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