While in Mexico City in 1988, Zelig Schnadover sang Beymer hakt men fun veldl aroys (Trees are Chopped Down in the Woods) for me, a song he remembered learning in Poland.
Pre-revolutionary view of Zelig Schnadover’s hometown, Slavuta, Ukraine (picture from www.jewua.org)
I cannot find other variants but would not be surprised if the melody turns out to be from a popular Polish song of the 1920s. Though he was raised in the Ukraine and Poland, Shnadover sings in a “standard Yiddish” with hardly any dialectical features.
Boymer [beymer] hakt men fun veldl aroys.
Shtern faln un leshn zikh oys.
Un shver iz der veyg durkh dem zamd.
Ober vi gut iz undz beyde baynand.
Fun der vaytns hert zikh a lid,
Un mir geyen un vern nisht mid.
Un vi shver iz der veg durkh dem zamd.
Un vi gut iz indz beyde baynand.
Trees are chopped down in the woods.
Stars fall and are extinguished.
And hard is the path through the sand;
But how good we feel when we’re together.
In the distance we hear a song.
and we walk and do not tire.
And hard is the path through the sand,
And how good we feel when we’re together.
This song by Nitsa Rantz was recorded at the same concert as Rantz’s song Mayn shifl that we had earlier posted in in our blog, at the club Tonic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2009. Rantz is accompanied by Jeff Warschauer on guitar.
Nitsa Rantz in Paris, Late 1940s
In their column “Lider demonen zikh lider” [Readers remember songs] in the Yiddish Forward newspaper, Feb. 7th 1992, page 15. Chana and Joseph Mlotek printed the words of Nitsa Rantz’s version of this song.
The columnists note that Rantz called the song “Viglid fun der frantzeyzisher revolutsye” [Lullaby of the French Revolution], and that they had found a printed version in a Workmen’s Circle songbook, 1934.
A version was sung during the Holocaust in the Vilna ghetto and was printed in Shmerke Katcherginski’s collection “Lider fun getos un lagern”, 1948. The singer Rokhl Relis called it “Dos lid fun umbakantn partisan”. Instead of the guillotine, the father is killed in a gas chamber.
Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman sings a similar version to Rantz’s, and there is enough difference in the text to make it worthwhile to post it on the Yiddish Song of the blog at some point. A beautiful version is found in the Stonehill collection at YIVO, sung by an as yet unidentified man, (Reel 9).
Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn. Shtil es flit shoyn di levone-shayn. Fun der vaytns finklen shtern, Kuk nisht kind af mayne trern. Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn.
Sleep my child once more quietly. Quietly the moonlight flies . From the distance stars are twinkling. Child do not look at my tears. Sleep my child once more quietly.
Es vet der tate mer nisht kumen. Im hot men fun undz genumen. Iber di gasn im geshlept, af dem eshafod gekept. Blaybn mir dokh eynzam kind aleyn.
Your father will no longer come. They took him away from us. They dragged him through the streets, on the guillotine they cut his head. So we remain lonely, my child.
Reder geyen in fabrikn, menstshn geyen underdrikn. Dort ahin iz er gegangen, vu es raysn zikh di klangen. Vu di shteyner zenen royt baflekt.
Wheels turn in the factory, the people go oppressed. There is where he went, where the noises wildly sound, where the stones are stained red.
Unter der fon hoykh gehoybn, hot er mit a tifn gloybn, az er muz bafrayen shklafen, firn zey tsu a naym hafn, Tsu a groyser, sheyner, nayer velt.
Under the flag raised high, with a firm belief that he must free the slaves, take them to a new harbor, to a great, beautiful new world.
“Yo, yo du vilst” (Yes, yes, you want) is a version of the international ballad, often called “Impossible Tasks”, #2 “Elfin Knight” in the Child ballad canon (Scarborough Fair is another example of this ballad type). Many Yiddish versions have been collected over a wide area of Eastern Europe. Hardly any of them, however, included the music when published. A more popular version was recently printed with music in Yiddish Folksongs From the Ruth Rubin Archive, Wayne St. University Press, 2007, page 61 – 62. Adrienne Cooper recorded that version on her CD “Enchanted”. In The Folk Songs of Ashkenaz, edited by Philip Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 2007, the compilers compare two Yiddish variants to four German variants on pages 82 – 89, music included.
The version sung by Josh Waletzky (which I recorded from him in 2007) parallels several found in Noyekh Prilutski’s Yidishe folkslider volume 2 (1913), pages 96 – 104, seven versions in all, and another one in the supplement at the end, pages 164 – 165. Most of the variants are from the Warsaw area. Waletzky sings only two verses (which he learned from Leyele Klempner, who sings on screen in Waletzky’s documentary film “Image Before My Eyes”) but one can easily reconstruct a fuller Warsaw version of this song. I did so for the Advanced Yiddish Song Workshop this month at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany, but more work needs to be done. Ethel Raim played the class this recording; a beautiful melody quite different from the other melodies for this song.
“This is Josh Waletzky singing a song that I learned from Layele (Warsaw Yiddish pronunciation of Leyele) Klempner, from her repertoire. It’s a fragment and I sing it in my standard Yiddish; she sang it in her Polish Yiddish. She was from Warsaw. ”
Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo, du vilst
az ikh zol mit dir tnoyim shraybn.
Zolstu mir zibn kinder hobn,
un a meydl farblaybn.
Yes, yes you want, yes, yes you want.
that I should sign the engagement contract with you.
Let’s see you have seven children,
and a maiden remain.
Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo du vilst
Az ikh zol zibn kinder hobn un a meydl farblaybn
Zolstu mir ale shtern tseyln
vifl in himl zenen.
Yes, yes you want, yes, yes, you want.
that I should have seven children and a maiden remain;
Let’s see you count the stars
as many as are in the sky.