Archive for sleep

“Mayn shifl” Performed by Nitsa Ranz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Nitsa Ranz was born in Poland in 1922 and emigrated to America in 1950. Mayn shifl (My Cradle) was recorded at an event that I produced called Generations of Yiddish Song: A Concert of Mostly Unaccompanied Rarely Heard Yiddish Songs at the club Tonic on New York City’s Lower East Side on January 9th, 2001.

The other singers that day were Michael Alpert, Janet Leuchter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, Paula Teitelbuam, Joshua Waletzky, and Jeff Warschauer. Ranz had a unique singing style, and though the song turned out to be American in origin, as I later found out when I discovered the song sheet (see below),  she sings with much of the traditional style in her voice.


The poet of the song, Leah Kapilowitz Hofman (1898 – 1952), was a pioneer of Yiddish children’s poetry in the US. Mayn shifl can be found in her collection In kinderland, published in 1919 in New York. The song’s music was set by composer Pinchos Jassinowsky (1886-1954), who wrote the music to several well-known Yiddish songs including Der kremer (words by A. Liessin).

Az di mame leygt mikh shlofn
in mayn vigele,
vigt zi mikh un zingt a lidl
 fun a tsigele.

When my mother puts me to sleep,
in my cradle,
she sings me a song as she cradles,
about a little goat.

Vert mayn vigele a shifl;
for ikh vayt avek.
Oyfn groysn yam, un ken nit
kumen tsu kayn breg.

My cradle becomes a ship,
so I travel far away.
On the big ocean, I cannot
come to a a shore.

Un di khvalyes oyfn vaser
loyfn mit geshrey;
hoybt zikh af mayn kleyne shifl
glaykh ariber zey.

And the waves on the water
crash with a shriek;
but my little ship
lifts right over them.

Kumen yam-fish bald tsu shvimen,
 vinken zey tsu mir;
Az ikh zol tsu zeyer palats
nemen a shpatsir. 

Sharks soon come a‘ swimming
and wink to me;
that I should take a walk
to their palace.

Flit mayn shifl oyfn vaser,
firt mikh tsu a land,
vu es zitst mayn gute mame,
mit a bukh in hant.

My boat flies on the water,
takes me to a land,
where my good mother sits,
with a book in her hand.

Shtel ikh op mayn kleyne shifl
shtayg fun ir aroys
Bin ikh vider lebn mamen
zetst zikh af ir shoys

So I stop my little ship
and I disembark
Again I am near my mother
and sit in her lap.

“Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres” Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

This recording of Ita Taub was done in our dining room in our Bronx home in the 1980s after a meal, as you can hear from the clanging of dishes. For biographical information on Taub see the earlier post on “Oy vey mame.”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres (If I were to have the Emperor’s Treasures) was written by Mikhl Gordon (1823 – 1890). According to Chana and Joseph Mlotek in their Yiddish-language work Perl fun der yidisher poezye, 1974 (now available in English), this song was originally called “Shlof mayn kind” and included in his first collection printed in 1868.

Mikhl Gordon

The Mloteks also say that Isa Kremer performed the song often and popularized it, though I cannot find a recording of her singing it. The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive lists two recent recordings of the song with the title “Az ikh volt gehat dem keysers oytsres.”

I have not seen Gordon’s work so I am not sure how many verses are in his original but a third verse is included in some recordings and collections such as Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamlbuch, Berlin 1914, that concern the father going to hell. That verse adds a little bittersweet humor to the song, and it’s interesting that with a woman singer such as Ita Taub the verse is dropped. As Taub sings it, the song only relates directly to the mother and child relationship.

Taub’s interpretation is truly moving and culminates in that great dramatic last line “Let enter the Tsadik’s mother!”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres
mit zayn gantser melikhe.
Volt es nit geveyn bay mir nikhe,
vi di bist bay mir nikhe. 

If I were to have the Emperor‘s treasures
and his entire land.
It would not be as pleasing to me,
as you are pleasing to me.

Mayn kind, mayn kroyn
Ven ikh derzey deyekh
Vayst zikh dokh mir oys,
az di gontse velt iz mayn.

My child, my crown.
When I see you
It seems to me
That the whole world is mine.

Shluf mayn kind, shluf mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn zezint.
Ay-lu -lu -lu, Ay-lu- lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.

Ven ikh vel amol darfn
af yener velt geyen,
veln toyern funem gin-eydn
far mir ofn shteyen.

When I will have to
go to the other world,
the gates of Heaven
will stand open for me.

Vayl di mayn kind
vet zayn a frimer un a giter.
Vet me zugn af yener velt –
„Lozst arayn dem tsadiks miter!‟

Because you my child,
will be observant and good,
So in the other world they will say –
„Let enter the Tsaddik‘s mother!‟

Shluf mayn kind, shluf, mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn gezint,
Ay-lu-lu-lu, Ay-lu-lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.