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“Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recording by Leybl Kahn, NYC,  1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

We have drawn on three sources to look at Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s singing of Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu dermanen, a Yiddish woman’s song if ever there was one. The wide geographic range of variants (see the notes to the song in Yidisher folklor, 1938), indicates that it dates at least as far as the mid-19th century. The song is a mediation on the tragedy of divorce/abandonment from a woman of the times’ perspective.

w-forwardlookingback-011913The Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in NY ran a column “Gallery of Husbands Who Disappeared” to track down men who abandoned their wives, leaving them “agunes”.

The first source is the recording itself. Since I also heard this song from Lifshe’s daughter – my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman – I have put Beyle’s alternate words in brackets and I believe those are the “correct” words: “dermanen” not “baklern”, “di blum” instead of “der boym”. Beyle learned the song from Lifshe and there are grammatical indications to support her version.

The second source is the YIVO volume Yidisher folklor, 1938. Song #132 in that work is the same song but heard in Podbroz, near Vilna, Lithuania; quite a distance from Lifshe’s Bukovina homeland. We have included the words and melody of that version in which the singer sings “di roze” instead of Lifshe’s “boym” and “agune” (an abandoned wife) instead of Lifshe’s “grushe” (a divorcee). My mother also sang “agune” and I believe that is how it was most widely sung.

The third source is the Ruth Rubin field-recording housed at YIVO of the fine singer Bill Lubell (hometown unknown). We have not included the recording but have transcribed his words.

In his performance a “woman’s song” has been adapted for a male singer. No longer is there a mention of “widow”, “divorcee” or “abandoned wife”. Without the build-up found in the woman’s version leading to the climactic description of an agune being discarded, the “man’s version” pales in comparison.

In my mind, it does not take too much imagination to interpret the verse “The flower blooms in the woods – the rain falls on her – she then loses her color” in a Freudian manner.

VERSION BY LIFSHE SCHAECHTER-WIDMAN

Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu baklern [dermanen]
Az ikh heyb mikh on tsu badenken.
Fal ikh arayn in alerley krenken,
fal ikh aran in alerley krenken.

When I begin to ponder [remember]
When I begin to consider,
I fall into all
sorts of illnesses.

Alerleyke krenken
ken a doktor heyln.
Nor mayn krenk
Ken ikh keynem nisht dertseyln.

All kinds of illnesses
can be cured by a doctor.
But about my illness
I can tell no one.

Der boym [di blum] vakst in vald
Der reygn geyt af ir.
Farlirt er [zi ] dekh oykh
dem sheynem kolir.

The tree [flower] grows in the forest.
The rain falls on it.
And so it loses
its beautiful color.

Nisht azoy di kolirn
vi di sheyne farbn.
Eyder aza leybn
iz beser tsi shtarbn.

Not so much the colors,
as the beautiful colors.
Rather than such a life,
it would be better to die.

Yingerheyt tsi shtarbn,
iz dokh oykh a sakune.
Eyder tsi blabn
a yinge almune.

To die young
is also a danger.
Better than remaining
a young widow.

An almune blaybt men
A’ der man shtarbt avek.
A grishe [an agune] nor blaybt men
ven der man varft avek.

One becomes a widow
when the husband dies.
A woman becomes divorced [abandoned]
when the husband discards.
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VERSION FROM PODBROZ, VILNE REGION (from Yidisher folklor, 1938, click to enlarge):

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“Bay der fintsterer nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A print version of Bay der fintsterer nakht can be found in I. L. Cahan “Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung” YIVO, 1952, NY, in an article given the title for this volume “Peyrushim af 24 lider” that his student at the YIVO institute in Vilna, Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe, had prepared for publication. This article consisted of Cahan’s comments on Yiddish songs that Pipe had collected in his hometown of Sanok [in Yiddish “Sunik/Sonik”], Galicia. Pipe had collected a version of “Bay der fintserer nakht” in 1934 from a singer who said it was sung 30 years earlier. The song is in Cahan, 1952, page 185, and has three verses, rather than two verses and one refrain, as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (1894-1974) (LSW) sings it.

According to interviews with LSW conducted by Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, NYU, in 1972-73, the song was sung by the plagers/plogers (sufferers). The plagers were young Jewish men who were about to be inducted into the Austria-Hungarian army and wandered from town to town, usually in groups, so they would intentionally fail the draft because of their poor health. See my article “Plagers: a folkloristishe shtudye” [Plagers: a folkloristic study], Forverts, January 7th, 2010, page 4, which refers to the literature on plagers in Yiddish.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s Hometown of Zvinyetchke, Bukovina, Ukraine
Photo by Itzik Gottesman, 2010

In this recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in New York City in 1954, she clearly sings the song too high in this performance, as can be heard in the last verse.

Bay der fintsterer nakht is unusual textually – it doesn’t fall into the usual categories of men’s songs – not religious, not political, not a work song, not humorous, not nationalist. It’s partly a lament on how miserable life is, and partly a love song; topics we would usually hear in women’s songs.

Bay der fintsterer nakht
lig ikh mir bayshtendik*, oy, un trakht.
zayt ikh bin fin mayn heym avek.
ikh ken shoyn nit kimen keyn kayn tsvek.
Ver se vil nit, dertsapt mir mayn blit.

In the dark night,
I lay constantly, oy, and think,
since I have left my home.
I cannot reach any goal.
Who ever wants can bleed me.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir dus harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts.
Derekh ayn imgliklekher libe
Imtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
How bitter is my heart.
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Who can feel my pain?
Because of an unfortunate love,
I wander the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy, lonely am I as a stone.

Mayn mame hot mikh gelozt shtudirn.
Zi hot gevolt az fun mir zol zayn a lat
Fun deym alemen hot zikh gur oysgelozt.
Ikh ti mir blind arimshpatsirn.
Elnt bin ekh, in na venad.

My mother allowed me to study,
She wanted something to become of me 
[lit – she wanted me to become a respectable person]
From all of this, nothing turned out.
Blindly I wander around,
lonely am I and homeless.

Oy, oy, oy, oy
Vi farbitert iz mir mayn harts
Oy, oy, oy, oy
Ver ken den film mayn shmerts?
un derekh a finsterer libe
arimtsugeyn in di gasn aleyn,
Tsu zayn fin mayn heym fartribn.
Oy, elnt bin ikh vi a shteyn.

Oy, oy, oy, oy,
How bitter is my heart
Oy, oy, oy, oy,
Who can feel my pain?
Because of a dark love
to wander in the streets alone.
To be driven from my home – 
Oy lonely am I like a stone.

*bayshtendik – though I am unfamiliar with this word, my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (LSW’s daughter), and I assume it means the same as „shtendik‟.