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“Di goldene land” Performed by Paul Lipnick

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Di goldene land / The Golden Land
A song by Elyokum Zunser
sung by Paul Lipnick

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s Yiddish song comes from Houston resident Elton Lipnick: an old home recording of his father Paul Lipnick singing the Eliyokum Zunser (1836-1913) song Di goldene medine (The Golden Land).

Paul (Paltiel) Lipnick (1903 – 1997) was born in Balbirishuk, now Balbieriskis, Lithuania.  He arrived in Galveston, TX with is mother and older sister June 10, 1907 – the first year of the “Galveston Movement/Plan” which diverted immigrant Jews from the East Coast to the southwest US.

Paul’s father Sorach arrived earlier to Ellis Island in 1904, and it is in NYC that he apparently learned this song which his son then learned from him in Texas. According to Elton Lipnick the song was recorded sometime between 1962 – 1976. Paul spoke fluent Yiddish.

LipnickFotoThree generations of Lipnicks: Paul, his son Elton, and his grandson David (taken 1990 -1992).

The bracketed numbers in the transliteration correspond to the same lines in the original Zunser Yiddish text as found in The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition edited by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO 1964. By comparing the two, one can follow how this song was folklorized. This Yiddish text is attached, as is the music as found in Geklibene lider fun Eliyokum Zunser NY 1928.

According to Zunser’s biographer Sol Liptzin, he wrote “Columbus and Washington,” a song that lauds the American ideal of freedom and democracy, during his last days in Minsk and completed it on board the ship in 1889. Di Goldene Land was written in 1891 expresses his disappointment after just a couple of years in NYC.

On YouTube there is a more theatrical recording of this song by the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus, of New York from 2014, conducted by Binyumen Schaechter.

In Paul Lipnick’s performance the first few words are missing but have been added in brackets according to the printed version of Zunser’s songs. Though quite popular in its time, I have found no LP/CD version of this song. Followers of this blog will note the resemblance in the melody to an earlier posted Zunser song Rokhl mevakho a boneho.

Thanks to Dr. Melissa Weininger at Rice University for making the connection with Elton Lipnick and to Elton Lipnick for the tape, photo and biographical information.

TRANSLITERATION

 [Fun Amerike hob ikh]  als kind gehert [1]
ven tsvey fleygn redn banand.
Vi gliklekh me lebt af Columbus’ erd;
es iz dokh a goldene land.

Ikh bin ahingekumenת dem seyfer durkhgekukt [5]
fil trern, troyer, shteyt af yeder blat gedrukt.
In di enge gasn vu di mase shteyt gedikht,
fil oreme, fintsere; der umglik ligt zey afn gezikht.

Zey shteyen fun fri biz bay nakht [9]
di lipn farbrent un farshmakht.
Der iz mafkir zayn kind far a “sent”
dem varft men fun veynung far rent.

In shtub iz der dales dokh ful. [93]
Ot rayst men op kinder fun “skul.”
Zey blaybn fargrebt, on farshatnd,
un dos ruft men “a goldene land.”

In New Yorker downtown to git nor a blik [81]
vu di luft iz a “regeler” pest.
Men ligt in di tenements a kop oyf a kop
vi di hering in di barlekh geprest

Ver ken dos tsuzen dem tsar [89]
Vi kinderlekh shpringen fun kar
mit di newspapers ful in di hent.
vi zey farkiln zikh tsu fardinen a “sent.”

In shtub iz der dales dokh ful,
ot rayst men op kinder fun “skul”.
Zey blaybn fargrebt, on farshatnd,
un dos ruft men a “goldene land”.

Dem arbeters yor shvimt im arum[17]
in a taykh fun zayn eygenem shveys.
Er horevet in “bizi,” un hungert in “slek.”
Un iz shtendik in shrek mit zayn “plays”. [place]

Git eynem di mashine a ris.[29]
Ot blaybn di shteper on fis.
Der on a fus un der on a hant.
Un dos ruft men a “goldene land”.

Nor lebn, lebt dokh der gvir in ir. [97]
Er bazitst dokh a kenigraykh.
Vos in Europe a firsht iz in America a gvir.
Der makht iz fun beydn glaykh.

Es shat im keyn konkurentsi
zayn kapital iz greys. [103]
Er git a shpil a vaylinker
vern ale kleyner bald oys.

Vi groys iz zayn makht un zayn vort
Er hot dokh di deye in kort.
Iber im gilt nisht keyn shtand [111]
tsu im iz di goldene land.

TRANSLATION

[About America I ] had heard as a child
when two people conversed.
How lucky one lives on Columbus’ ground;
It is truly a Golden Land.

I arrived and read through this “holy book”.
Many tears, sorrow is printed on each page.
In the narrow streets where the masses are thick,
Poor, dark; bad fortune is seen on their faces.

They stand from morning to night.
The lips burnt and faint.
This one sacrifices his child for a cent,
That one gets thrown out of his flat because of rent.

The home is full of poverty.
Children are ripped out of school.
They remain ignorant, unintelligent,
and you call this “a Golden Land”

In downtown New York: take a look
where the air is regularly polluted.
The tenements are crowded with people,
like herrings squeezed in barrels.

Who could stand and watch this sorrow
as children jump from the car [trolley car]
with hands full of newspapers
as they catch cold to earn a cent.

The home is full of poverty.
Children are taken out of school.
They remain ignorant, unintelligent,
and you call this “a Golden Land”.

The worker’s year swims around him
in a river of his own sweat.
He labors when its busy, starves when its “slack” [no work]
And is always fearful of his “place” [place in line for work]

The machine gives someone a tear
leaving the leather workers with no legs.
This one has no foot, that one no hand
And this you call “a Golden Land”.

Yet there are the wealthy who live there,
he possesses an entire kingdom.
What in Europe was a prince, is in America a wealthy man;
the power of both is equal.

No competition can harm him;
his capital is large.
He plays with them awhile
and soon is rid of all the smaller ones.

How great is his power and his word.
He has the authority in his pocket.
No social position applies to him.
For him is this a “Golden Land.”

Goldene1goldene2

golden 3Goldene4Goldene5

ZunserLibson 1

Zunser Libson 2

Zunser Libson 3

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