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[Page 188]

Folk Songs


Dark, Slippery, Late at Night

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's notes - in square brackets]


(Editor Ben-Ezra comments: We print this song because of the specific version that circulated in Horodets. The song appears in various versions. Look up “Yiddisher Folk songs in Russia” by Ginsburg Marek No.234 p. 189 Peterburgh 1901; Rosental “Folk Songs” in rashumot b, page 369; “Yiddisher Folklore” p.39 Vilna 1938 where the notes are also presented p. 335.)

[It is difficult to translate poems/songs and when a line is not clear to me I make a suggestion.]

Dark, slippery late at night
Walks a girl deep in thought
There is no person to be seen in the street
And her heart is broken from crying.

She walks so that no one will disrupt her
And sings a song about herself:
If you, people, hear my song
You will know what has happened to me.

I press my child to my heart,
My tears drench your body
May God send an angel to you, my child,
To rescue you from the depth of the forest

May good people find you
They will show mercy for you
And you, my child, will behave towards them earnestly
Because my lot is not better than yours.

You will not know your real father
And you will not see your mother anymore
I wish I did not know him as well
And behaved like all the other girls.

I promised myself to your father
And he gave me his right hand
I wish, too, I did not know him
And would not have ended up with this disgrace.

[Page 188]

The Song of the Workman

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

(Editor Ben-Ezra's comments: I found this particular song on the last page of Sheike's store-notebook. It seems that it was written there by his daughter Sarah…)

[to me there are vague parts in this poem/song but I tried my best]

Who suffers more than the workman for his bread
He must work until his last day.
Who suffers chill and hardship as much as the workman.
Oh, who lacks the piece of dry bread,
Who will be arrested
And who will be shipped to Siberia?

And now I am forced to part from my wife
Men with the right mind, watch how they have arrested me,
And I still have no idea what my sin is.
And now I must part from my wife and child.

My child asks me: “Where are you going now, father”?
I have soaked him with tears,
My heart is grieving;

My child, you probably wonder why I sit so sad?
This thought is not without reason. [there is a reason for my sadness]
Your mother is crying:
They have brought her a letter
That your father wrote
From a place far away from us, [the “her” and “us” are in the original]
He has been lying sick in a hospital already for months.

Sick, lies our provider,
Struggling with his death.
October is approaching,
We are hoping in vain
In the house there is no wood, no bread
[For which] he should be sending money home.
He had broken a hand [cannot therefore work]
Standing near the wheelbarrow…[maybe a stretcher? Expressing the fear of his nearing death?]


[Page 189]

From Asia to Europe

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

(Editor Ben-Ezra's notes: This particular song was sent to us by Dvora Elman, one of the most educated women in Horodets in the old generation.

We print this because of the version that circulated in Horodets. Actually it is the Elyakim Tzunzer's song “The 19th century”. Look up: “The collected writings of Elyakim Tzunzer” pp.205-208 NY 1920 with various changes.

Apparently, the version circulating in Horodets was the original version, before it got its printed form; the version which was circulating among the Jewish folks the way it was heard from Tzunzer's mouth)

[This poem is a metaphor – describing the spiritual changes Jews went through with the “Enlightment” movement - from the middle of the18th century to the second half of the 19th century. I hope that my efforts to understand it are successful at least in part. Some background will be helpful to the reader and some names/words will be explained:

There were two main trends in the “Enlightment” movement: – one, mainly in Germany and Western Europe, called to get out of the closed walls of religious life into the freedom to seek general knowledge, acquire skills of productive work and mingle with the surroundings, shed the outward appearance that differentiated between Jews and gentiles and introduce reforms in the observance of Jewish rules.

The other trend – mostly in Eastern Europe, called to stress the uniqueness of the Jewish people and put more stress on learning Hebrew besides the language of the country. From the middle of the 19th century scholars in Eastern Europe became critical of religion even to the point of being hostile to it, and there was scorn of the Jewish rules.

The philosophers of the general “Enlightment” movement believed in combining thought, education and action towards a better future and stressed the freedom of the individual, etc.

All this finds expression in this metaphorical poem, as well as the author's feelings]

Moshe Mendelssohn is considered “the father” of the Jewish “Enlightment movement and his group of Jewish scholars and literary men printed their essays about literature and science in the yearly periodical Bikurey Ha'itim – at first mostly in German and some in Hebrew and then mostly in Hebrew and some in German.

Hekhalutz pioneer, was an organization aiming to acquire skills of productive work towards aliya to the Land of Israel

Te'uda 1. Certificate 2. Purpose 3. Testimony 4. Destination.

Riva”l R' Yitzkhak Ber Levinson preached to combine Torah, science, general knowledge, productive manual work and agriculture. He wrote a book, 1823, called Te'uda Be'Israel which calls Jews to accept his principles. The Orthodox community treated him and other “Enlighted” people as heretic; any young man who joined the “Enlightment” camp was nicknamed Te'ud'ke after Riva”l's book.]

From Asia to Europe
I have crawled to find an inn
I have made my bed to sleep
In a narrow corridor.

Under my head - faith
On my side confidence [in God]
And thus I have drifted
Eighteen hundred years.

Hard and cold
I have not, in sleep,
Felt that I was part of the community

Sleep makes me forget
That I am lying in a prison.
Soon I hear the call:
It is shortly daylight!

Friends from all corners
One, two, three
Are starting to wake up.

Bikurey Ha'itim”, “Hekhalutz”, Mendelssohn's followers bloom [See underlined above]
The teuda with the hammer, [see underlined above]
One, two, three,
Stand up and hit the chamber,

One, two, three,
How does it occur to a philosopher
To despise faith
To be betrothed to freedom,

For freedom to sacrifice
Spirit and body.
And many newspapers
Make us confused.

It is soon daylight, Israel
Wake up!

[Page 189]

Children's songs

Handed over by Khaike Pomerantz

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's notes - in square brackets]

In memory of Khaike

a. Hak messer Chopping knife
Brok messer Shredding knife
Dir iz goot You have it good
Mir iz nokh besser I have it even better
b. A regen, a regen Rain, Rain
Di ka'le iz gelegen the “bride”* gave birth
A voo hot zi gelegen Where did she give birth?
Unter di vegen On the way/roads
Vos hot zi gehat? What did she beget?
A yingele A small boy
Vi hot men gerufen? What did they name him?
Moyshe'le Moyshe'le

*[It seems to me that Ka'le =bride/bride-to-be/newly married, is a “clean” word for an unmarried girl.HK]


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