Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Friday, February 5, 2016

Zay a tate tsu dayn kind (Be a Father To Your Child) - a familiar lament in Yiddish variety shows

Mrs Rosa KlugYou can get the sheet music for this song at the Library of Congress Notated Music Website: Sei a tate zu dein kind, "as sung with great success by Mrs. Rosa Klug at the People's Music Hall, New York." Words and music by Hyman Altman, copyright 1909.

I couldn't find a recording by Rosa Klug, but here's one at the FAU site: Zay a tate tsu dayn kind sung by Simon Paskal.

The dreary, melodramatic song is one of dozens with the exact same message, the tune is similarly generic. I guess there would not be so many versions of this story if it weren't dear to the audience.

I learned a new word here, bazoyfn or bezoyfn. It's the German word besoffen (besaufen): pissed, smashed.

Here are the lyrics and my translation:

Du forst avek mayn liber man af der velt tsu zukhn glik
Du zolst dort shnel matsliekh zayn un kumen gezunt tsurik
Mir iz shver fun dir zikh tsu shaydn vayl du veyst vi ikh lib dikh
Dos vet zayn nor mayne freydn hofn du vest kumen gikh
For, mayn man, un kum gezunt farges nit in dayn vayb un kind
Un dos bet ikh fun dir atsind:

Kum, mayn man, aheym geshvind un zay a tate tsu dayn kind
Vayl a tate muz dos hitn a kind lern gute zitn
Got in hartsn hob, mayn man, un loz dayn kind nit elend zayn
Kum, mayn man aheym geshvind un zay a tate tsu dayn kind.

In an eng tsimer ful mit roykh zet men di froy, zi zitst atsind.
Zi klert ir dort nebekh der moyekh vi nemt men esn far'n kind.
Dos kind, er bet zikh mit geveyn "Mamenyu esn gib mir."
Zi blaybt zitsn nor vi a shteyn un trern gist zikh fun ir.
Zi nemt nokh eynmol probirn un tsu ir man a brif diktirn
Efsher vet dos im dortn rirn

In a kafe-hoyz in Nuyork zet men ir man, er zitst zikh breyt
er trinkt shampanier gor on zorg un zayn kind far hunger dergeyt
er kumt aheym a bisl bazoyfn un blaybt shteyn vi shtim
Er hot a brivele dortn getrofn, a fraynd fun der heym shraybt dos im:
Geshtorbn iz dayn froy durkh noyt, dayn kind dergeyt far a shtikl broyt,
Dos iz di tsavoe far ir toyt:"

"You're going away, my dear husband, to seek your luck in the world,
You should quickly be successful and come back healthy.
It's hard for me to part from you because you know I love you.
This will be my only happinesss: to hope you come quickly.
Travel, my husband, and come back safe. Don't forget your wife and child.
And this I beg of you now:

Come home quickly, my husband, and be a father to your child,
Because a father must make sure a child learns good morals.
Have God in your heart, my husband, and don't let your child be desolate,
Come home quickly, my husband, and be a father to your child.

In a small smoky room you can see his wife sitting now.
She's thinking as hard as she can, how to get food for her child.
The child begs her, crying, "Mama, give me food."
She keeps sitting like a stone and tears pour out of her.
She tries one more time, and dictates a letter to her husband,
Maybe it will move him:

In a coffeehouse in New York her man is sitting in high style.
He's drinking champagne, completely without worries, and his child is expiring from hunger
He comes home a bit drunk and stands as if mute.
He found a letter there written by a friend back home:
"Your wife is dead through destitution, your child died for lack of a bit of bread,
This is the testament [which remains] after her death:

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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