Archive for tears

“Di farfirte” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2019 by yiddishsong

Di farfirte / The Woman Who was Led Astray
Words and (music?) by Morris Rosenfeld
Sung and recorded by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This poem appears in the first volume of Morris Rosenfeld’s  (1862 – 1923)  poetry. Leo Summergrad learned it from his mother and I have only found one reference to the song: a query in Chana and Yosl Mlotek’s Forverts column “Leyner dermonen zikh lider”. But the two compilers had never heard of the song.

photo (1)Leo Summergrad’s mother, Minnie, and father, Abram Summergrad, on the right side. His in-laws Moishe and Esther Korduner are on the left.

Rosenfeld’s original poem is composed of three 14-line stanzas and we have printed it this way, though in Summerfeld’s handwritten transcription, which we attached, he has divided it into the more common 4 line stanzas. We are also attaching the printed version from Volume I of Rosenfeld’s collected works.

Though we are not sure who composed the music, we do know that Rosenfeld composed melodies to his poetry and sang them at readings.

Thanks to Leo Summergrad for contributing this recording.

1
Gedenkstu vi du host mir libe geshvorn,
gegrint hot der eplboym tsvishn di korn.
Der foygl hot ruik geblikt fun di tsvaygn
un ales arum iz gelegn in shvaygn.
O, ver hot es damolst gevust dayn kavone.
Geshtumt hobn himl un erd un levone.
Ven du host geshvorn far mir mit a fayer,
az eybik farblaybstu mayn eyntsik getrayer.
Du hot mikh farkisheft, du host mikh batrunken.
Ikh bin vi batoybt in dayn orems gezunken.
O, dan iz dayn umreyner vuntsh dir gelungen.
Du host in mayn heyliktum frekh ayngedrungen.
Mayn ere geroybt un mayn lebn tserisn.
Mikh biter baleydikt un endlikh farshmisn.

Do you remember, you swore your love for me.
The apple tree was greening among the rye.
The bird calmly watched us from the branches
and everything around us lay in silence.
O, who could then have known your intention.
Silent were heaven and earth and the moon,
when you swore to me with a fire,
that eternally you would remain my one true one.
You cast a spell on me; you intoxicated me.
I was as if deaf when i lay in your arms.
O, then you succeeded with your filthy desire;
into my sacred shrine you insolently penetrated.
You robbed me of my honor and tore my life apart.
Insulted me bitterly and finally whipped me.

2
Bin orm un elnt vos darfstu zikh shtern?
Fleg ikh bay dir shtendik zikh betn mit trern.
Un du bist dokh raykh un gebildet un eydl.
Gey zukh dir a shenere, raykhere meydl.
O, zol mir der fayer fun elnt farbrenen,
fleg ikh tsu dir zogn du darfst mikh nit kenen.
Farges on mayn sheynkeyt, ikh darf nit keyn gvires.
O loz mikh in armut, ikh zukh keyn ashires.
Gedenkstu di nakht ven mir zaynen gegangen
der mond iz vi zilber in himl gehangen.
Fun goldene shtern bakranst undzer svive
vos hobn geshmeykhlt vi kinder nayive.
Gedenkstu yene nakht? O, du darfst ir gedenken.
Ikh shenk es dir, Got zol in himl dir shenken.

I am poor and alone, why bother yourself.
I had always with tears pleaded with you.
Yet you are wealthy, educated and gentle.
Go find yourself a prettier, richer girl.
O, let the fire of loneliness burn me up,
I used to say to you, you should not know me.
Forget about my beauty; I need no valor.
Leave me poor, I do not search for riches.
Do you remember the night when we walked;
the moon was like silver hanging in the sky.
Golden stars crowned our surroundings
and smiled like naive children.
Do you remember that night? O, you should remember it.
I give it to you as a gift; God should give you it as a gift in heaven.

3
Ikh hob zikh bay dir mit rakhmones gebetn.
O, rays mikh nit oys vest mikh shpeter tsetretn.
O, loz mikh! ikh vel mir tsvishn di mashinen
an erlekhn man, a gelibtn gefinen.
A shapmeydl bin ikh, vos hob ikh tsu klaybn.
Bin orem geborn, vel orem farblaybn.
Dokh, du host mit zise un kuntsike verter
geshvorn az du nor muzst zayn mayn basherter.
Tsu sheyn bin ikh, hostu gezogt, tsu farvyanen
far mir iz a beseres lebn faranen.
Gedenkstu di nakht tsi iz lang shoyn fargangen
der vint hot koym vos geshoklt di zangen.
Arum di natur hot gekukt un geshvign
o, ver hot gerekhnt du zolst mikh batribn.

With compassion I pleaded with you.
O, don’t tear me out; stomp on me later.
O, leave me, so that among the machines
I will find an honest man, a lover.
I’m a shopgirl, what is my choice –
I am poor and will remain poor.
Still, with sweet and artful words
you swore that you must be my destined one.
Too beautiful am I, you said, to every wilt.
For me there is a better life awaiting.
Do you remember the night or is it far in the past?
The wind barely moved the stalks.
The nature around watched and was silent.
O who would have thought you would sadden me so.

4
Atsind zogstu vilstu mikh mer nit bagegenen
ikh hob derkegn, ikh kum zikh gezegenen.
Ikh veys az du gist zikh an anderer iber.
Nu, vintsh ikh dir, mazel-tov, mazl mayn liber.
Du bist keyn bal-khayim, dayn shem iz genezn
Di shuld zi iz mayne, yo, mayne gevezn.
Ikh hob nit gegloybt az du vest mikh baroybn
Ikh hob nit gevust nokh dem umglik fun gloybn.
Ikh hob nokh di mentshn genoy nit bagrifn.
Ikh hob nit gevust az di tsung iz geshifn.
Neyn, du bist nit shuldik; Ikh kum dir fartsayen
Ikh vil dikh farlozn, ikh vil dikh bafrayen.
Vi kum ikh, an oysvorf, in elnt geshlosn
farlangen mayn maysters a zun far a khosn?

Now you say you no longer want to see me.
I, to the contrary, come to bid farewell.
I know that you now love another:
so I wish you good luck and good fortune my love.
You are a living creature, your name will recover.
Guilty am I, yes I was the guilty one.
I did not believe that you would rob me.
I did not know of the tragedy in believing.
I did not know that the tongue is sharpened.
No, you are not guilty; I come to ask your pardon.
I want to leave you; I want to liberate you.
How could I, an outcast, trapped in loneliness,
ask my boss’s son to be my groom?
farfirts1farfirts2farfirts3

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“Oy vey mame ikh lib a sheyn yingl” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2019 by yiddishsong

Oy vey mame ikh lib a sheyn yingl / Oh, Mother, I Love a Beautiful Boy
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG)
Recorded at the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, West Virginia, 1990.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

During the summer of 1990 Yiddish singer and teacher Ethel Raim had been asked to teach Yiddish song for “vocal week” at the Augusta Heritage Center, in West Virginia.  She asked to bring Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, who turned 70 that summer, with her to co-teach.

Gildene PaveYedaAmJan. 1950 Hey-Vov
Ethel Raim (left) and Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

At the end of the “Vocal Week” the much larger Augusta Heritage Folk Festival took place on the same grounds and BSG sang this song from the stage at that occasion.

This song was learned by BSG in the United States after her arrival in 1951. It can be heard on a record sung by Feigele Panitz. It is also sung on a field recording by the singer and actress Diana Blumenfeld in the Stonehill Jewish Song Collection, curated online by Miriam Isaacs for the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. Blumenfeld sings an additional third verse.

Thanks to Ethel Raim for this week’s post. 

TRANSLITERATION

Oy vey mame ikh lib a sheyn yingl.
Sheyn iz er vi di gantse velt.
Far zan sheynkeyt iz er ba mir eyner.
Un durkh im vert mayn harts farbrent.

Vifl tsures hob ikh zikh ungelitn.
Biz ikh hob gekent im derkenen.
Takhn trern, oy, ti ikh fargisn,
ven ikh ti zikh un im dermanen.

Kh’vel shoyn mer keyn libe nisht shpiln.
Ikh vel shoyn mer inter zayn fentster nisht shteyn.
Es zol zan harts azoy vi mans tsepiket vern,
vet er mer azoy groys bay zikh nisht zan.

TRANSLATION

Oh mother I’m in love with a handsome boy.
He’s as beautiful as the whole world.
Because of his beauty he is my one and only.
and for him my heart burns.

How many troubles had I suffered,
until I could recognize him for what he was.
Rivers of tears, oy, do I spill,
when I think of him.

I will no longer love him,
I will no longer stand under his window.
Let his heart break like mine;
then he will not be so conceited.
Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 3.42.10 PM

“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.
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“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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goldfadn3
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goldfadn5

“Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner / I am a Small Gypsy (Rom) Lad
Pre-war version from Chernovitz, Romania.
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG]
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx 1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The more popular song version of this poem by Itzik Manger (1901 – 1969) was composed by Hertz Rubin (1911 – 1958) and has been recorded by at least thirteen artists. According to Chana and Yosl Mlotek in Songs of Generations, the singer Masha Benya received that version from Manger’s widow Genia Manger after the second world war in NY.

MangerItzik Manger in his Chernovitz days, 1920s

But this earlier version has a different melody, and slightly different words without the “Ekh du fidele du mayn” refrain. BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, which was Romania between the world wars and is now in the Ukraine.

Manger’s lyrics carry a number of commonly-held negative stereotypes about Romany (Gypsy) culture. However, considering the time in which he was writing, through first-person narration, Manger creates a sympathetic window into the challenges faced by Roma including poverty, oppression, and a sense of otherness as a minority community. The ever-wandering Manger, no doubt, felt like a kindred spirit.

In the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO, Sore Kessler sings this Chernovitz version and explains she learned it from the Yiddish poet M. M. Shaffir in Montreal. Shaffir was also from the Bukovina region (not Bessarabia as Kessler says in her spoken introduction), and a friend of BSG. Some of Kessler’s text differs and she sings a verse that BSG does not:

Shtendik zaynen mir af vegn,
mir af vegn.
Say bay nakht,
un say in regn.

Always are we travelling,
travelling [on the roads.]
Both at night
and in the rain.

Accordionist Mishka Zignaoff (who was a Yiddish-speaking Russian Rom musician based in New York) recorded the melody as Galitzianer khosid (Galician Hasid) in a medley with the famous Reb Dovidl’s nign.

I am posting this song to mark Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s 5th yortsayt (1920 – 2013) which falls on the second candle of khanike.

BeyleItzikTapes2Beyle and Itzik Gottesman looking over Yiddish field recordings, 1970s.

TRANSLITERATION

BSG Spoken: [Itzik Manger] iz geveyn maner a landsman, un hot geredt Yidish vi ekh. Vel ikh zingen in durem-yidish azoy vi er hot geredt. “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” un di lider vus ikh zing zenen a bisele, tsi mul, andersh vi ir zingt zey, val ikh ken zey nokh fun der heym.

1) Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner, gur a kleyner
ober vi ir zeyt a sheyner.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ikh veys nisht vi ikh bin geboyrn, bin geboyrn.
Di mame hot mikh in steppe farloyrn
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

2) Dem tatn hot men oyfgehongen, oyfgehongen
Vayl er iz ganvenen gegangen
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Burves, hingerik un freylekh, ober freylekh
Fil ikh zikh vi a ben-meylekh.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

3) In mayn lidl kent ir hern, kent ir hern
Mayn tatns zifts, mayn mames trern.
Tra-La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

S’kost in gantsn nor a drayer, nor eyn drayer.
S’iz mayn veytik gurnisht tayer.
Trala-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

TRANSLATION

BSG Spoken: “[Itzik Manger] was from the same city as me and spoke Yiddish as I do. So I will sing in the southern Yiddish that he spoke.  “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” and the other songs that I will sing are a little different than the way you sing them because I learned them form home.”

I’m a small Gypsy lad, a very small Gypsy lad,
But as you see good-looking.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

I don’t know where I was born, was born.
My mother lost me somewhere in the Steppes.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

They hanged my father, hanged my father
Because he went thieving.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Barefoot, hungry and merry, always merry.
I feel like a prince.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

In my song you can hear, can hear
My father’s sigh, my mother’s tears.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

It will only cost you three kopecks.
My suffering doesn’t cost much at all.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la
tsigaynerl 1

tsigaynerl 2

tsigaynerl3

“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):

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