Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Mayn vayb's vunder (My wife's wonder) - a sarcastic parody of Abraham Goldfaden's "Gots vunder" by Isaac Reingold

UPDATE: Reposting because, delightfully, Leyzer Burko pointed out today on Facebook that kishke gelt (literally "guts money"), more specifically than my translation of "money that comes from sacrifice," is: "money you accumulate by scrimping on your meals."

A few days ago I posted a song recorded in 1919 by Marcus Eisenberg, Gots vunder - it's just a beautiful recording and an interesting song, the story of Passover told in quite an unusual way.

I actually love its tune, even though in general I'm addicted to interesting chord progressions and there are only two chords in this song.

There are two parodies of Gottes Wunder in the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection - one called "How the bosses oppress the workers," and this one...

... which explains how an ordinary shmo slaving away in a garment district sweatshop can pull himself together financially with the help of a wife who's smarter than he is. And in fact, he can live the American dream and become as rich and corrupt as anybody else. It's a free country, so saith Isaac Reingold, the lyricist.

There are several other parodies by Isaac Reingold, mostly great, on this blog: put his name in the search box and see.

So click to hear my recording from yesterday and today of Isaac Reingold's Mayn vaybs vunder:


And below, my translation. If you want the Yiddish songsheet, email me.


My wife's wonder

Once my wife flamed out. "Enough with your sitting in the shop!
May that whole shop be poisoned! Enough already with sewing and sweating.
Sadly, the tailoring business doesn't amount to a hill of beans.
It's a disgrace what you earn there, it's just hand to mouth.
Think about making something of yourself. Listen, let's rent a little shop.
You go to work anyway, bring me your pay every week, I'll take care of the store."
So I'll show you all immediately (it's only fair),
How my wife, my heart and soul, made a bit of a rich man out of me.

Before I took up this business, who doesn't know what my "luck" was?
Twelve years I spent in that shop and had barely enough food to pick at.
I worked here and there, "enjoying" bread with chips.
And thank God I saved up... a wife and seven children.
There's food and rent, a penny for each child, a dress and a wrapper for the wife,
A pair of pants for me, a pair of shoes for each of us,
and the wages are running out.
So I'm going to show you right away --
Times have changed for me.
Think over my wife's plan, get yourself a little store,
And become a respectable person like others.

One needs to understand how to run a business
Learning it cost us years.
Do you have to earn a lot? No! You just have to save up.
My soul barely kept me alive.
There was no gobbling of meat or fish.
An apple, an orange? Feh, that's poison,
How can a poor man eat such things?
No suit for me! Patched shoes,
The children with their belly buttons hanging out,
At night, oh, the aggravation! Who knows what's biting you...
But that's not my point.
The only thing I want to show you right away,
it will be a help to everyone.
The accounting is clear: two or three years passed, now I laugh at poverty.

Now, if you want to talk to me I don't have time to listen.
I'm not the guy I used to be. Millionaires pay attention to me.
I'm well known in the lodges, I'm one of the bigshots!
In one I'm president, in the other: treasurer.
A hero in politics, I know every trick. My opinion carries weight.
If the Republicans don't pay me promptly, straight away I'm a Democrat.
As long as there's cash.
And young Lazar the tailor's boy has quickly become
The business man, Mr. Lazer.
The world may shout this money comes of too much sacrifice,
This worries me as much as ... bacon.

Amol hot zikh mayn vaybl shtark tseflamt:
"Genug in shop dir zitsn!
Az vern zol der gantse shop farsamt
Genug shoyn nayen shvitsn.
Mishteyns gezogt dos shnayderay hot nit di verth a shishke.
A shpas vos du fardinst derbay s'iz nor fun hand in kishke.
A takhlis gib a kler ot her mikh tsu, nor her,
A storke lomir renten
Du arbet "anyvey," breng ale vokh di 'pey'
Un ikh vel dos atenden
Azoy vel ikh aykh bavayzn take glaykh
Dos visn iz a yoysher
Vi mikh hot mayn vayb mayn harts un mayn layb
Gemakht far mir a shtikl oysher

Eyder ikh hob dos gesheft gemakht
Ver veyst nit mayne glikn?
Tsvelf yor hob ikh in shop farbrakht
Un koym gehat tsum pikn.
Gearbet hob ikh do un dort genesn broyt mit tshipkes
Un danken Got kh'hob opgeshport.
A vayb mit zibn pipkes.
Af esnvarg un rent un yedn kind a sent
Der vayb a kleyd, a 'wrapper,'
A por pludern far zikh un yedn a por shikh
Un di veydzhes vern knaper
Azoy vel ikh aykh bavayzn take glaykh
Es baytn zikh di tsaytn
Mayn vaybs plan batrakht, a storke gemakht,
Un gevorn a layt, tsu laytn.

A biznes firt darf men dokh farshteyn
Di praktik kost undz yorn
Men darf kenen fil fardinen, neyn,
Men darf nor kenen shporn
Di neshome hobn mir derhaltn kam
Keyn fleysh, keyn fish gefresn,
An epel an 'orinzh," fe, es iz sam,
Vi torn es kabtsonim esn?
Keyn malbush nit af zikh mit lates af di shikh
Di kinder mit di pipkes in droysn
Baynakht, oy der fardros
Es beyst ir veyst shoyn vos...
Nor nit dos bin ikh aykh oysn.
Dos eyne vil ikh aykh bavayzn take glaykh
Vi helfn muz dos ales
Der kheshbn iz klor, avek tsvey, dray yor,
Haynt lakh ikh oys der dales

Yetst ven ir vet veln redn tsu mir hob ikh keyn tsayt tsu hern
Bin gornit der zleber mentsh vos frier, mikh akhtn milionern
In lodzhes bin ikh gut bakant, a gantser redl firer,
In eyner bin ikh president, in der tsveyter kasirer.
A held in politik, un veys a yeder trik,
Un hob a groyse deye
Tsoln republikn nit glat ver ikh a demokrat
Abi nor di matbeye
Un fun Leyser Shnayder yung
Iz gevorn gikh un gring
Der biznesman Mr. Lazer
Meg shrayen di velt
Dos iz kishke gelt
Es art mikh vi der khazer

For sheet music and/or performances contact me: jane@mappamundi.com

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