Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Vi di bosses driken di arbeter (How the bosses oppress the workers) - ANOTHER song set to Gots vunder

I'm not recording this one because
  • I've already posted two recordings with this melody (Gots vunder itself and the lovely parody by Isaac Reingold, Mayn vaybs vunder);
  • This one is eight verses long, that's too much;
  • The verses don't fit the melody very well. If you are interested in singing the song you'll just have to fiddle with it. I think some lines got left out by accident.
The title page here (click for a larger view) says:
A pretty, interesting song about how the bosses oppress the workers. And bring down the prices and run away with the wages and the workers cry out to the heavens but to no avail. Created by the famous singer Pinchus Braverman Mboslov?, Kiev gubernye, with the melody from "Gots vunder." Price one cent. L. Rabnowits, Telegraph printer, 46 Canal Street, New York
This is the second song I've worked with that mentions khay vekayem, the first was Di Naye Al Chet - a super great song by the way. In that song we see: Der kop bay reb khayem shrayt khay vekayem. In this song, the chorus ends with the phrase. Here is what Michael Wex has to say:
Right after the cantor recites a passage in which humanity is described as a broken pot, a passing shadow and a dream that flies away, everybody yells out Ve-ato hu melekh keyl khay ve-kayem, But You [God] are the king, a living and existing God,” ... In idiomatic Yiddish, gey shray khay ve-kayem means, “shout your head off, protest in vain.”
 This song plays on both meanings. Here's my translation, with the transliteration following. If you ever decide to sing this song, send me a link and I'll post it.

How the bosses oppress the workers

My world is dark and bitter, my luck is bad
I can't go home again. My luck didn't serve me any longer.
I'm lonely as a stone
Woe is me, and in addition, I've used up my money and my strength
With the endless voyage.
Oy, it's a predestined sentence,
It doesn't help to cry to the heavens

What do you say, Jews, to our luck?
That we haven't found anything better?
We haven't thought about any goal
We run away from our homes
It's constricting in Russia, the edicts are harsh,
Nobody has any counsel to give
Suddenly countless people think to fly off to America
There one finds a new catastrophe
And it doesn't help to cry to the heavens.

Where is the good luck we imagined when we were still living back home?
We were happy, rejoicing, how happy we would be in the new place
There'd be work, businesses would prosper,
When God brought us to that land
Now we see it's just the opposite:
It's a big disgrace for us.
All one hears in the land is “a terrible time”
And it doesn't help to cry to the heavens

Genteel folks from rich families,
Who scorned everything
Now they seize upon any trades
And they're told to wait, humiliated
They wander around everywhere in the streets
Exhausted from hunger
They curse the person who discovered how to get here.
America, who thought it up!?
Every day one seeks a new plan
And it doesn't help to cry to the heavens.

In Russia, you can't earn now
Credit has dried up since people have been rushing to America
Nobody will trust you for the money
Each one leaves his wife and children
And does as much backbreaking work as he can.
They stay behind, naked and uncovered
And have to sell the house
In short, he becomes a poor man
Oy, he traveled so far just to discover a new poverty
There he'll be shouting uselessly to the heavens

And as he takes up the hardest trade
And earns money little by little
He has to watch over the boss
See that he doesn't keel over and die
When the time comes the boss doesn't pay him
But says: “I'll pay you tomorrow” ...
Then one sits without bread and wishes for death
But the dead boss isn't worrying about anything
Oy, now you have to find a new boss, and as for getting the money,
It doesn't help to cry to the heavens.

And when you find a new boss you have to ask carefully:
Does he love to drink? Does he have money?
Is he too humble? Does he work alone?
Is his wife an uppity witch?
And if he is perhaps lazy and has a big mouth
Let him be the one to suffer
Oh, may the Lord above protect us from such bosses
So we don't have to cry uselessly to the heavens.

Cry and shout, all you Jews, all you workers in the land,
We should be allowed a bit of happiness
We should not be brought to disgrace
We should become rich as all the other nations
No great rages should be visited upon us
We should no longer be so small
We should have our kingdoms
Let us pray to the Lord above,
Everyone shout: "You are the king!"

Finster un biter iz tsu mayn velt
Mayn mazl iz yetst zeyer kleyn
fun der heym bin ikh vayt farshtelt.
Mayn glik dint shoyn nisht mayn
Eyner aleyn elnt vi a shteyn
Shlekht iz tsu mir un dertsu hob ikh oykh
Gepatert gelt mit koyekh.
Mit der rayze on a shir
oy, s'iz nor a gzar minashomayim
Un es helft nit khotshe shray khay vikayim.

Vozhe zogt ir yidn af undzer glik
Vi mir hobn vayter nisht getrofn
Nisht getrakht on a shum tsvek
Fun der heym zaynen mir farlofn
In Rusland iz eng, di gzeyres zaynen shtreng,
Keyn eytse hot nit keyner
Keyn Amerike mit amol tsu flien on a tsol
Hot fartrakht yedn eyner
Oy gefint men dort an umglik gor a nayem
Un es helft nit khotshe shray khay vekayem.

Vi zaynen di glikn vos me hot undz forgeshtelt
Ven mir zaynen nokh gezesn af dem ort
Mir hobn zikh gefreyt un ongekvelt
Vi gliklekh mir veln zayn dort
Arbet felt dort nit, gesheftn geyt dort git,
Vi brengt undz shoyn Got in land
Yetst hobn mir derklert az ales iz farkert
Es iz far layt a groyse shand
Oy me hert nor in land a shlekhte "time"
Un es helft nit shray khay vekayem

Eydele mentshn fun raykhe mishpokhes
Vos ales iz geven far zey mevuze (degraded|scorned)
Khapn zikh yetst tsu ale melokhes
Un me heyst zey vartn af der buzeh
Zey blondzhen arum in di stritn umetum
Fun hunger vern zey farshmakht
Zey farsheltn im di teg
Ver es hot oysgefinen dem veg
Amerike ver es hot nor fartrakht
Oy me zukht zikh ale tog a plan a nayem
Un es helft nit khotshe shray khay vekayem

In Rusland parnose iz yetst geshlogn
Kredit hot zikh geshtelt
Zint me hot genumen keyn Amerike tsu yogn
Gloybt men keynem keyn gelt
Yeder bazunder lozt iber vayb un kinder
Un tsebrekht zikh vifil er kon
Zey blaybn naket un bloyz
un farkoyft nokh dertsu dos hoyz
Haklal er vert an oreman
Oy er fort zikh zukhn a dales a nayem
Dort vet er shoyn shrayen khay vekayem

Un az er nemt zikh shoyn tsu der shverster melokhe
Un fardint shoyn tsubislekh gelt
Muz er nokh gebn af dem bos hazhgokhe (supervision)
Er zol nit optretn fun der velt
Vi es geyt iber di minut der bos batsolt dir nit
Azoy zogt er fun haynt af morgn...
Azoy zitst men shoyn on broyt
Un me vintsht zikh shoyn dem toyt
Un der bos heybt nit on tsu zorgn
Oy men muz zikh shoyn gefint a bos a nayem
Un far dem gelt shrayt men khay vekayem

Un az men gefint zikh a bos a nayem
Muz men zikh gut nokh fregn
Tsi hot er nit lib tsu makhn lekhayem
Tsi hot er epes farmegn
Tsi halt er zikh kleyn? Tsi arbet er aleyn?
Tsi iz zayn vayb nit keyn srore?
Un tomer iz er foyl un hot nokh a breyt moyl
Zol er zayn di kapore
Oy fun azoyne boses zol unds hitn der boyre shemayim
Az mir zoln nit darfn shrayen khay vekayem

Veynt un shrayt ale yidn, ale arbeter in land
Me zol undz lozn a bisele tsufridn
Me zol undz nit makhn tsu shand
Mir zoln vern raykh mit ale umes glaykh
Me zol af undz nit trogn keyn retsikhes
Mir zoln shoyn nisht meyn zayn azoy kleyn
Mir zoln hobn undzer melukhes
Lomir betn dem boyre shemayim,
Shrayt ale, "Khay vekayem"

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