Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Di farvoglte shif (The Wandering Ship) - a song for Jewish refugees from Israel Ben Ami

I don't know who this lyricist, Israel Ben Ami, was. Maybe somebody else can help me out. He wrote his dark lyrics about homeless Jews to the melody of Goldfaden's A beymele hobn undzer ovus avoseinu in der vilder viste geflantst. found as Das boimele at the LOC site with this quote from the original song:
"Our ancestors planted a tree of truth and knowledge. It then bloomed and bore sweet fruit, the Ten Commandments and Torah/Holy Writ. We nestled, like birds amoung broad leaves, within out Jewish traditions. Over the ages, though storms have beat against the great tree, it has remained steadfast, and ever with us as our sanctuary."
So Ben Ami was writing a kind of continuation of the original thought. He left out the chorus and used only the verse. I combined his verses a bit to shorten the song.

I have been coughing every day and every night since early December. It was bronchitis, now I don't know what it is, but it makes singing very hard and it makes me sound the way I expect I will sound all the time in another couple of decades. I thought the scratchy, wretched, weary, wobbly sound of my bronchitis voice sort of suits this song though it makes me miserable. Here it is, from yesterday:

And here is the transliteration and the translation:

Farhilt iz mit khmares der himl fun vaytn
Es dekt tsu di khvalyes di sham
Vos traybt dort der shturm fun gants lange tsaytn
Dos blondzhet a shif af dem yam
Bay dem ruder shteyt dort keyner
S'iz nito keyn kapitener
S'iz af ir keyn vekhter nit tsu zen
Dortn shloft un filt keyn shande
Nor in gantsn di komande
Oykh di pasazhirn groys un kleyn.

Es kholemt zikh zey keyn gefor un keyn shrekn
Es art zey in kholem keyn zakh
Der shifs-brokh vet plutsling zey ale oyfvekn
Fartumlt fun shreklikhn krakh
Ver vet hilf zey demolt gebn?
Ver vet retn zey dos lebn,
In der groyser ungerikhter noyt?
Ver iz oykh di viste bande,
Di farshlofene komande,
Vos zey firn zeyer shif tsum toyt!

Di shif iz di elnde yidish ume
Es traybt zi dos umglik arum
Der shturm iz oftmol a beyze mehume (turmoil)
Vos treft zi in veg umetum
On eyn rikhtikn regirer
Hot zi file foyle firer
Unbevekt, es meg oykh vos geshen!
Vegn es iz vi groys tsu tsaytn
Dos gefar fun ale zaytn,
Rirn zey zikh den ir baytsushteyn?

Nit lang hobn fil mit dem land zikh gezegent
Der Dnieper vu s'loyft tsu dem yam
Oykh dort bay dem Dnester un Visle der genend,
Iz aykh dokh bakant minhastam,
Dort iz finster yetst der himl,
Un es hert zikh dos getuml,
Fun dem vildn shturm biz aher,
Dort geyt unter undzer ume,
In der blutiker mehume,
S'iz nito tsu helfn s'zol ir ver.

Oy, lozt nit, oy, lozt nit di shif untergeyn,
Vos hot undz getrogn biz haynt;
Geshvind undzer ume tsu hilf lomir shteyn
Zi matsl zayn fun ire faynd, save/rescue/protect
Firt arayn di shif af zikher,
In dem port arayn vos gikher,
Vu zi zol nit zayn shoyn mer in shrek,
Oykh fir undzer folk atsinder,
Krigt a heym, a heym, gezhvinder,
Brengt es tsu dem lang gevinshtn breg!

The sky is enveloped in dark clouds from afar
The waves are bedecked with foam
For a long time driven by the storm
A ship is wandering on the ocean
There is no one at the rudder
There is no captain
There is no watchman to be seen on her
The crew sleeps shamelessly
So do the passengers, large and small

They aren't dreaming of any danger or terror
In their dreams nothing worries them
A shipwreck will suddenly wake them all
Bewildered by the terrifying metropolis
Then who will help them?
Who'll save their lives
In the great unexpected destitution?
Who is this dismal band,
The sleeping crew,
that carries the ship towards death!?

The ship is the desolate Jewish nation,
Misfortune drives them around
The storm is often an angry turmoil
Which they find everywhere in their path
Without a good commander
They have many rotten leaders
Motionless as they are, anything could happen
Against is such great danger from all sides
Do they then move themselves to stand by her?

Recently many said goodbye to land,
The Dnieper that runs to the sea,
Also there, by the Dnester and Vistula; the Genend
is probably also known to you.
There the sky is dark now,
And the tumult from the wild storm
can be heard even here
There, our people are sinking
In the bloody turmoil,
There is no help.

Oh, don't let the ship go under,
The ship that's carried us this far,
Let's quickly help our people,
Protect them from their enemies,
Carry the ship surely
Into the port as quickly as possible
Where she will no longer be terrified,
And take our people now to a home,
quickly, bring us to the long wished-for shore!

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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