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 one-verse song ‘Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke’ (“A Boat for Me, a Canoe for You”) was performed by Zelig Schnadover, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988. Curiously, the first line from this ditty appears under the boat in the above 1960s painting of the Israeli artist Arie Aroch (1908-1974), who spent his childhood in Kharkov (Kharkiv), Ukraine.
Zelig Schnadover was born in 1907 in Slavuta [Yiddish – Slavite סלאַוויטע ] Ukraine. In 1920 they “escaped the Bolsheviks” and the family went to Poland. He had his bar-mitsve in Brody, [Yiddish – Brod], Poland. He lived in Poland until 1926 and learned the song there. Schnadover emigrated to Mexico City in 1926/27.
To make money in the early years in Mexico City Schnadover was part of a group of singers who provided the soundtrack to silent movies, many of them Russian, so they sang Russian songs. They didn’t have much time to prepare – usually they had not seen the movie earlier so amusing things happened. An example he gave was for Abel Gance’s film Napoleon. The group was still singing a waltz as the projector was already showing a battle scene. When I knew him he had been the longtime owner of a stationary store, a papeleria, near the center of the city, the Zocolo.
Mir af a shifl,
Dir af a lotke.
Mir a sheyn meydl
Dir a tshekhotke
Me on a boat, you on a canoe. Me – a pretty girl You – one with tuberculosis.
Also, a variant of the song from Brest-Litovsk (Yiddish – Brisk, now in Belarus) appears in I. L. Cahan’s 1912 collection with no music but with a second verse and presents it as a dialogue. The first verse sung by “He”, the second one by “She”.
Ikh af a shifele
Du af a lodke,
Ikh a soldat,
Du a soldadtke.
Ikh af a shifele
Du af a lotke;
Ikh a sheyn meydele,
Du a sukhotke.
He: I on a boat You on a canoe. I – a [male] soldier You – a [female] soldier.
She: I on a boat, You on a canoe I – a pretty girl You – a girl with tuberculosis.
Here is how it appears in Cahan’s 1912 collection:
Special thanks for help with this week’s posting goes to Tamara Gleason Freidberg, Paul Glasser and Rachel Greene.
Since we start reading the book of Breyshis (Genesis) this week of Sukes, I thought it would be appropriate to post this recording of Ita (Eda) Taub singing a song about Adam and Eve and the snake. I recorded it from her in 1984 at the Circle Lodge Workmen’s Circle camp in Hopewell Junction, NY.
The words and music appear in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Wayne State University Press, 2007. Rubin recorded this song [tape 26] in 1962, and I recorded it again 20 years later at Circle Lodge, a camp for adults in upstate New York.The two versions are the same except for one or two words.
In the Rubin book she translates “Hot Got tsigenimen di reyd fun zayn layb” as “God perceived the needs of Adam’s body”. Literally, one should translate this line as “So God took away the speech from his body.” But I would think that the line once was “Hot Got tsigenimen di rip fun zayn layb” (God took out the rib from his body). This is supported by the version in Yiddisher folklor, ed. Y. L. Cahan (YIVO, Vilna, 1938), song #199 that is attached at the end (we’ve also included #200, for a similar melody).
The song, I believe, is very old and includes midrashim (interpretations or extensions) of the Biblical telling of Adam and Eve and the snake. Similar motifs can be found in the so-called “Women’s Bible”(the Tsene Rene) and the classic midrashic collections. The line “Eve, Eve what have you done? An entire world you did destroy” reflects the midrash that Eve had all the animals take a bit of the apple (except the immortal Phoenix bird) and therefore mortality was introduced into the world (see also Louis Ginzburg’s Legends of the Jews, Volume One).
Given the simplicity of the melody, almost a recitative, and the subject matter, my feeling is that the song evolved from a Yiddish woman’s prayer, a tkhine.
After the song Taub talks about the impression this song and her other song,Oy vey mame (also on the Yiddish Song of the Week Blog) left on her friend, the historian Raphael Mahler (who also recorded songs and nigunim for Ruth Rubin). She then tells us where she learned the songs.
The footnote in the printed Rubin version adds that the last verse refers to biting the umbilical cord, but this is not clear to the listener I believe.
Additionally, Michael Alpert and Julian Kytasty have recorded the song on their wonderful album Night Songs From a Neighboring Village (Oriente, 2014). You can hear it at the beginning of this video:
LYRICS TO TAUB’S VERSION:
1) Az got hot bashofn mentshn af der velt
oy, mentshn af der velt.
Oy, udem harishen tsum ershtn geshtelt.
2) Udem harishen iz shpatsirn gegangen in vayngurtn aran.
Oy iz im a vab in zin aran.
3) Hot Got tsigenimen di reyd fin zan lab,
Un hot im gegegeybn Khoven far a vab.
4) Oy Khove mit Udem zenen shpatsirn gegangen in vangurtn aran.
Iz Khoven an epl in der rekhter hont aran.
5) Iz tsigekimen di beyze shlong “Khove, Khove,
gib a bis dem epl, vesti zen vi zis er iz.”
6) Oy hot zi genimen un gegebn a bis deym epl.
Oy hot zi gezen vi zindik zi iz.
7) Hot zi genemen a blot kegn der levone,
un hot zikh tsigedekt dos zindike punim.
8) Hot zi genimen a blot kegn mist,
un hot zikh tsigedekt di zindike brist.
9) Khove, Khove vus hosti getrakht?
A velt mit mentshn imgebrakht.
10) “Nisht ekh hob es getun, nisht ekh hob es getun
di beyze shlong hot es tsigetrakht.”
11) “Zibn yur zolsti trugn, shver un biter zolsti hubn.
Af di skoles zolst dikh rasn, un ven di vest es hubn, zolst es tsebasn.”
Dialogue After the Song:
Dus iz take epes zeyer, zeyer originel. Vu’ zhe iz – hot er [Raphael Mahler] gevolt nemen di tsvey lider, un nokh tsvey lider, ikh gedenk shoyn nisht vus. Ober di zenen geveyn di ershte. Az er vil nemen un mekh arimfirn iber di kibutzim. Zol er zey vazn vus se meynt originele ekhtkayt. Un az zey farshteyn nisht di shkutsim, vel ikh zey shoyn derklern. Ikh vel shoyn derklern vus dus iz. Zey veln dus zeyer shtark upshatsn, zugt er. ___kibutz.]
Gottesman: Fin vanen kent ir dus lid?
Taub: Fin vanen dus lid? Dus lid gedenk ikh fin der heym ___ Dortn vi me hot geneyt. Es fleygn zan a pur meydlekh un zey fleygn zingen. Dus ershte lid [Oy mame ikh shpil a libe] hot gezingen man miters a shvester. Zi iz geveyn farlibt, hot zi demlt gezingen dus lid.
Gottesman: Vi hot ir dus gezingen?
Taub: In Skedinits, mayn shteytl.
Gottesman: Ven hot ir dus gehert, ven zi hot gearbet?
Taub: Zi hot gemakht di breyte kleydlekh vus di poyertes trugn. Fleyg zi neyen far zey. Iz zi gezesn bay a mashin un hot geneyt un ikh hob es zikh oysgelernt.
Gottesman: Tsi hot zi gezingen andere lider?
Taub: Ir veyst vifl yurn di ale zikhroynes…dus iz tsulib aykh vus ikh grub aroys ikh zol zikh dermanen. Ober ikh ken nisht gedenken.
When God created people in this world
O, people in this world,
O, Adam was the first one he made.
Adam went walking into the vineyard,
O, then a wife came into his head.
So God took out his speech from his body,
and gave him Eve for a wife.
O, Adam and Eve went walking in the vineyard
And a red apple came into Eve’s hand.
Then the evil snake came over – “Eve, Eve, Eve
Take a bite out of the apple,
So you will see how sweet it is.”
O, then she took a bite out of the apple,
and realized how sinful she is.
Then she took a leaf against the moon,
and covered up her sinful face.
Then she took a leaf against her waste,[?]
and covered up her sinful breast.
Eve, Eve what were you thinking?
A whole world full of people you’ve condemned to death.
“It was not I who did it, it was not I who did it –
the evil snake thought it up.
” Seven years you should be pregnant,
hard and bitter should your birth be, on the cliffs may you climb,
and when you give bith, you should bite it to death”.
Dialogue after the song:
Gottesman: Where do you know this song from ?
Taub: Where do I know this song from? This song I remember from home. ____ The place where we sewed. There used to be a few girls who used to sing.
The first song [Oy mame ikh shpil a libe] was sung by my mother’s sister. She was in love so she sang that song.
Gottesman: Where did you sing it?
Taub: In Skedinits (Stidenitse, Ukraine), my shtetl.
Gottesman: When did you hear it, when she worked?
Taub: She made the broad dresses that the peasant women used to wear.. She used to sew for them. So she sat at the [sewing] machine and sang.
Gottesman: Did she sing other songs?
Taub: Do you know how old these memories are?…For your sake I am digging them out and remembering them. But I can’t remember them.
As published in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin (Wayne State University Press, 2007):
As published in Yidisher folklor, ed. Y. L. Cahan (YIVO, Vilna, 1938):
Ver es vil kayn tate-mame folgn (Whoever Does Not Listen to Their Parents) is a lyric love song performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman (LSW) for this recording by Leybl Kahn, made in the Bronx in 1954. So far, I can find no other versions of the whole song in printed collections.
It seems LSW remembered the final fourth verse a little later so the song is presented on two audio files – the first three verses are on one audio file and the final verse on a second audio file. The song is unusual in that the melody changes for just the last verse.
As usual on this blog, the transliteration in the English alphabet reflects more accurately the singer’s dialect than the transcription in Yiddish that follows, which is done in standard Yiddish.
Ver es vil kayn tate-mame folgn.
Deym kimt dekh oys azoy tsi geyn.
Mayn mame hot mir geheysn shlufn geyn leygn.
Hob ekh getin in drosn shteyn.
Zenen derkhgegangen tsvey sheyne yingelekh.
In ekh bin mir geshtanen azoy betribt.
Az s’iz eynem bashert tsuris tsi ladn.
Hob ekh mekh in eynem farlibt.
Bay mayn mamen bin ekh eyn un eyntsik kind
Un mayn mame hot mekh zeyer lib.
Zeyt zhet mir tsi poyln bay mayn mame
Zi zol im lozn arayn in shtib.
From second file – final verse.
Di mame zogt shoyn yo.
Ober mayn tate zogt dekh neyn.
Zeyt zhet mir tsi poyln bay mayn tatn
Er zol meygn in shtib arayngeyn.
Whoever does not listen to their parents –
That is how it goes.
My mother told me to go to sleep
but I went outside to stand.
Then two handsome boys went by,
and i was standing there so sullenly.
If it’s your fortune to have troubles –
I fell in love with one of them.
I am my mother’s one and only child,
and my mother loves me very much.
So please help me convince my mother
to let him into the house.
My mother says “yes”.
But my father says “no”.
So please help me convince my father,
he should allow him to come into the house.
Perhaps because of an advertisement in the Kolomey [Kolomyia, Kolomea – Eastern Galicia, today Ukraine] newspaper, young women came to the city and became street walkers. Any other interpretations of the first line of this song, which Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) says was created during the first world war, would be welcome. This recording of Lifshe was made by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in New York.
As part of YIVO’s I. L. Cahan Folklore Club Leybl Kahn recorded approximately 90 Yiddish songs from LSW in NY in 1954. This photo of Kahn is from the 1980s
Klezmer music scholar Prof. Martin Schwartz (Berkeley) remembers his mother from Brisk de Lite (Brest Litovsk, now in Belarus) singing this song, but about a “Bialistoker tsaytung” (newspaper from Bialystok) He also pointed out that the same melody, more or less, can be heard in the klezmer repertoire in Harry Kandel’s Odessa Bulgar.
Note: in the first verse LSW sings mistakenly “Arop fun dem shlekhtn veg iz zi” which means – “She went off the bad/crooked path”; the opposite of what she intended. I believe she meant to sing “Arop funem glaykhn veg iz zi” – “She went off the good/straight path”.
LSW: A pur lider vos me hot gezingen in krig.
LK: In der ershter velt-milkhome.
LSW: In der ershter velt-milkhume
LK: Gut, dos ershte lid…
Di kolomeyer tsaytung hot gebrakht a vabele
shpeyt bay nakht.
Gegangen iz zi
fun shpeyt biz fri
Arup fun dem shlekhtn [glaykhn] veyg iz zi.
Meydlekh in der ershter klas
geyen arim in der (h)intershter gas.
Hefker iz di velt atsind.
Tsi iz dus fayn? Tsi iz dus sheyn?
Biz shpeyt ba nakht arimtsigeyn?
Es iz nisht fayn; es iz nisht sheyn.
Dus iberike shtoyst zikh un aleyn.
LSW: A few songs that were sung in wartime.
LK: In the first world war.
LSW: In the first world war.
LK: the first song…
The Kolomey newspaper brought a young woman
late at night.
She walked from late to early morning
Off the straight path she went.
[LSW sings mistakenly “off the evil path she went”]
First class girls wander around in the back alleys.
The world is topsy-turvey now.
Is this fine? Is this nice?
To walk around till late at night?
It is not fine; it is not nice.
You can imagine the rest yourself.
S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg (The Holy Days Have Arrived) is a song that takes place before Rosh-hoshone and Yom-kipper when it is a tradition to visit the departed family at the cemetery.
Photo courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
In the cemetery, a voice is heard of a recently deceased woman who died in childbirth, and she sings of her anguish about her new born child and her husband whom she loved.
S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg Ven me darf geyn af keyver-oves Az ikh bin gekimen in halbn veg Hob ikh mikh dermont in mane makhshoves.
Plitsem hert men a kol fin a frishn korbn. Fin a yunger kimpiturin. Vus iz ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.
Vi iz mayn yinger man? Ver vet im arimnemen? Vi iz mayn pitsele kind? Ver vet im zeygn gebn?
Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt Ven gehat hob ikh es [epes?] tsu krign. Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt Fin mayn man, fin mayn libn.
The holy days have arrived time to visit family in the graveyard When I was half way there, I remembered my ruminations.
Suddenly a voice is heard from a fresh victim: A woman who died in childbirth Just a short while ago.
Where is my young husband? Who will embrace him? Where is my little child? Who will breastfeed it?
When I am reminded of that time when I had what I wanted. When i think of that time, Of my husband whom I loved.
When one thinks about love songs in Yiddish, the vast majority are sung by unmarried girls who dream of the man they love and how wonderful life will be after the wedding. Few are the songs, such as this, in which the woman openly expresses love for her young husband. Lifshe Shaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) powerful emotional style matches the words perfectly.
In this case, the wife sings of her love from her grave and the song immediately reminds us of another song performed by LSW, Afn beys-olyem, also known as Di shtifmuter and originally penned by Mikhl Gordon.
In addition to this field recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx, 1954, there are two other published versions of S’iz gekimen di heylike teg. One, collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Galica, does indeed take one verse taken from Gordon’s song. see Dov Noy and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun galitsye (Tel Aviv, 1971), page 110 – 112.
In Pipe’s version the song is strictly an orphan song and has a refrain.
The second version can be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s song collection, Baym kval – folkslider, Vilna, 1923 (page 81, song #22) and he calls it Di shtifmuter, the same title as Gordon’s song. This second version emphasizes the wicked step-mother who will mistreat the child.
The last day of Passover 1903 coincided with Easter that year, and the tragic Kishinev pogrom began on that date. Kishinev, aftermath of the pogrom (YIVO Archives)
Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song.
A version of the same pogrom song is sung by the actress/singer Miriam Kressyn about Bialystok on the LP record Dos Goldene Land. Kressyn was from Bialystok, and the Bialystoker pogroms took place in 1905 – 1906. (Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for providing this recording)
The third pogrom where this song was used was in Volodarka, Ukraine. This pogrom took place in July 1919 amidst the Russian Civil War. The lyrics (as collected by S. Kupershmid) appears in the Tsaytshrift far yidisher geshikhte, demografye un ekonomik literatur-forshung, shprakh-visnshaft un etnografye 2-3 (Minsk, 1928) page 803. It too contains the lines of walking through feathers as through snow in winter, and this emerged as one of the primary pogrom images, as we see in our Kishinev pogrom examples and others.
On the Workmen Circle’s LP “Amol iz geven a mayse”, Sidor Belarsky sings two verses of an abbreviated version of The Kishiniev Pogrom song. The song begins at this link – double click on “Amol iz geven a mayse (cont.)” and go to 12:30 minutes.
In the chapter “The Pogrom As Poem” in David G. Roskies’ work Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (1984) the author examines how the same pogrom song was adapted for different pogroms. He remarks “even when the singer invoked historical facts, the relics of the violence were organized into public symbols and thematic formulas, so that the details were applicable anywhere and only the place-name would have to be changed.”
Transliteration/Translation of LSW’s version:
Lifshe Schaechter-Widman “Lid funem Keshenever Pogrom”, recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954
Akhron Shel Peysekh af der nakht
iz aroys a nayer “rozkaz.”
Az yidn zoln lign bahaltn.
Zey torn zikh nisht dreyen in gas.
Oy, ziser got in himl,
kuk shoyn arop af dr’erd.
Ze nor dem rash un getuml.
Vos hobn di yidn far a vert?
A hoyz fun dray gorn
hot men geleygt biz tsu dem grint.
Betgevant hot men gerisn,
di federn gelozt of dem vint.
In di federn iz men gegangen
azoy vi vinter in shney.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
mener gerisn of tsvey.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
Di mener tserisn of tsvey.
Ziser got in himl
kik shoyn arup af dr’erd
Vuz zenen di yidn azoy zindik
Vus zey hobn gur keyn vert?
The last day of Passover
a new regulation was issued.
That Jews should lie hidden;
they aren’t allowed in the street.
Oy sweet God in heaven,
Look already down on the earth.
See the tumult and chaos.
Are the Jews worth anything?
A house three stories high
was destroyed down to the ground.
Bedding was torn apart;
the feathers blew in the wind.
In the feathers they walked
as in winter in snow.
Women were beaten;
men torn in two.
Sweet God in heaven
Look already down to the Earth.
Have the Jews so sinned
that they are of no worth.