Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Monday, October 3, 2016

On a kind - set to Di blumenkrantz. Also, A mames shmerts

Here are a couple songs I wouldn't be bothering with if I weren't in a sort of "collect all 200" frame of mind. They are on very familiar subjects and use very familiar rhymes - and a familiar tune, too, Di blumenkrants

A previous song to this melody was Di Terkishe Bulgarishe Milkhome (The Turkish-Bulgarian War).

I was going to record the first one, On a kind (Without a Child), but when I went to fit the lyrics to the melody, it would have taken a hammer and a shoe-horn. Without a recording to reference, I don't think it's worth doing.

If you want to try, take the words as I give them here and fit them to the melody above.

Many Yiddish songs bewail the disaster of childlessness. Partially it was a social problem: in an America before social security, it was adult children who took care of aging parents. Partially it was a religious problem: you depended on your sons to say kaddish for you after death. I imagine this theme is also popular as it points out: a poor person with children is better off than a rich person without. Poor parents with lots of kids may have found this idea reassuring.


Der mentsh er shtrebt zolang er lebt
Aynraysn vil er di velt, er loyft un flit
Un vert nit mid
Um nor tsu makhn dos gelt
Koym vert er shoyn raykh
Un hot gelt a sakh
Un ven zayn tsayt kumt on tsum geyn
Dan fregt er bay zikh
ver vet yarshnen mikh?
Un bay dem gedank blaybt er shteyn

Ikh bin alt, krank, shvakh, vey un vind
Vos toyg mayn farmogn atsind?
Az ikh hob nit keyn kind - ikh hob nit keyn kind
On a kind vos toyg di velt
Vos toyg raykhtum vos toyg gelt
Koym verstu alt, un du blaybst aleyn
Dan bistu elnt vi a shteyn
Di oygn shvakh, un di hor shoyn gro
Un keyn kadish iz nishto
Af mayn keyver ver?
Vet fargisn a trer - oy vey iz mir
On a kind vos toyg di velt!


Nit der iz raykh vos hot a sakh
Milyonen palatsn vos mer
Ven baym oriman iz a kind faran
Iz er raykher vi der milyoner
Ven er vert alt
Un er muz geyn bald
Men ruft im shoyn zayn letstn gang
Treyst er zikh in noyt
Er lozt a kadesh nokh zayn toyt
Un er shtarbt nit mit dem gedank

Without a child

The man strives as long as he lives
He wants to move heaven and earth, he runs and flies tirelessly
As soon as he becomes rich and has lots of money
And when his time comes to go, then he asks himself, who is my heir?
And he stands motionless thinking about it.

I'm old, sick, weak, woe is me
What good are my earnings now?
Since I have no child - without a child what good is the world?
What good are riches, what good is money?
As soon as you get old, and you remain alone
Then you are desolate as a stone
Your eyes weak, your hair gray, and you have nobody to say kaddish.
Who will come to my grave?
Who'll shed a tear? Woe is me! Without a child what good is the world?


It's not the person who has a lot of stuff, who has millions of palaces, who is rich.
When a poor man has a child, he is richer than the millionaire.
When he becomes old and must soon leave
He's being called, he's reached the end
He consoles himself, he leaves a son to say kaddish after his death
And he dies not thinking this:


The second song, A mames shmerts (A mother's suffering) is the same story we've seen before in A brivele der mamen and several others. I'm a bit perplexed by the use of the word bild (picture, portrait, image) - is she really only asking for a photo, or does she mean this more in the sense of actual face time? I'm only giving the first of three verses here. Sing them to the same tune as the song above. If you want more verses write to me.

A kind farlozt zayn heym un fort aher
In golden land tsu zayn iz zayn bager
Geshtorbn iz zayn foter
Yetst lozt er zayn muter
Eynzam elnt nor vi a shteyn
Du forst mayn kind avek farges mikh nit
Gedenk dayn mamenyu, af shrit un trit
Ikh vuntsh dir glik mayn kind
Kum dort on gezunt
Nor farges nit bald
Dayn mame iz shvakh un alt
Ir shmerts vet zayn geshtilt
ven zi vet zen dayn bild:

Farges nit in dayn libe mamenyu
Gedenk du host nit mer keyn tatenyu
Du lozt mikh do aleyn: - un elnt un in payn
Gedenkzhe vos dikh bet di mame dayn
Dayn bild oy shikn zolstu ir geshvind
Treystn vet zi zikh mit dem mayn kind
Ir shmerts vet zayn geshtilt: - ven zi vet zen dayn bild
Un dayn liber mames vuntsh vet zayn derfilt

A child leaves his home and travels here
It's his desire to be in the golden land
His father died, now he leaves his mother
Solitary, lonely as a stone
"You're leaving, my child, don't forget me
Remember your mother, no matter what
I wish you happiness my child
Come back healthy, but don't quickly forget
Your mother is weak and old, her suffering will be eased
When she sees your image

Don't forget your dear mother
Remember, you don't have a father any more
You leave me here alone - desolate and in pain
Remember what your mother asks
Send your picture quickly
She'll be comforted by that, my child,
Her suffering will be eased when she sees your image
And your dear mother's wish will be fulfilled



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

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