Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Monday, December 10, 2018

Ver es grobt a grub far yenem falt aleyn arayn (One who digs a hole for another falls into it himself) Yiddish theater songr es grobt youtube

This lengthy title also appears as Ver es grobt a grub af jenem, falt alejn arajn, or far jenem, or Ver es grobt ouf jenem a grob falt, or Ver es grobt a grub farn andern, der falt alejn arajn. It's a famous saying in Polish and Russian as well, I don't know which version came first.

The song is, I think, from the 1909 show "A mentsh zol men zayn" (You should be an upstanding person).

The song was composed by David Meyerowitz (pictured), who was notorious in his early days for not caring enough about his hundreds of songs to copyright them. He'd sell them for $10 each and the buyers reaped the profits. In this case, years later in 1922 the publisher Albert Teres added just enough to the song so he could claim the copyright. It was ever thus.

I don't think I've talked about David Meyerowitz, but he was composer of many of the penny songs. He was born in 1867 in Dinaburg, Latvia, to poor parents. In 1888 his father left for America and at the age of 11 David had to support the family working in a match factory. He worked in a shop but made more money singing songs. He could not read or write in any language. Two years later his father brought him to America, and they worked in a rag shop, though he kept writing songs at night. He entered Louis Gilrod's Yiddish vaudeville theater as a singer and songwriter. His breakout hit was Gott un zayn mishpot iz gerekht, but you'll find many other songs of his on this blog if you put his name in the search box.

In 1911 he was the subject of a newspaper article with this headline: THE MAN WHO WRITES AN OPERA A WEEK -- Yet Does Not Know a Note of Music! He Plays His Own Leading Roles, Gets a $40 Salary and Found Time to Write The "Jewish National Hymn" He was 30 at the time and had written thirty-six complete operettas and several hundred songs. His contract was with the Grand Music Hall. The article says Meyerowitz didn't read music - he composed in his head and sang the music to the conductor, who would write it down.

There's always a Yiddish theater song apropos to the moment and this song is a good one for these troubled days. If you watch to the end, I've left a little treat there for you.



Words (transliterated Yiddish) and translation after the jump.



Ver es grobt a grub far yenem falt aleyn arayn

Ikh gedenk nokh atsind ven als a kleyn kind
Ven ikh fleg nokh in kheyder geyn.
Hot der rebbe mir geloybt on a shir
Vayl ikh bin a gut yingl geveyn.
Er flegt zogn mir: "Her vos ikh leren dir,
An erlekher yid zolstu zayn!
Zukh nit bay yenem zayn glik veg tsu nemen
Un veys az s'iz a Got faran...
Nor erlekh un fayn zolstu nor zayn
Vestu lebn gliklekh dayn velt.
Un tomer az nit oy, Got bahit
Iz in der Toyre a posek faran:

Boyr khoro veyakh pe reho
Nem mayn kind dos gut in zinen
Visn zolstu mayn kind zayn s'iz a groyse zind:
Ver es git nor zikh aleyn lib
un zukht af yenem tsu grobn a grib
Muz di ende zayn
az er falt aleyn arayn az er falt aleyn arayn

Mit fil yorn tsurik dan denken fleg ikh
Az roybn yenems tut keyner nit
Oyb eyner glik hot kumt dos dokh fun Got
To vos hot dos mit yenem tsu ton?
Nor yetst ze ikh aroys vi yeder durkh oys
Nor zukht vi tsu roybn vos mer
Yenems eyn untergang art zey gants veynik
Abi nor tsu vern a milyoner.
Er shvindelt un dreyt biz di yugent fargeyt
Un der toyt klopt im shoyn on in tir:
"Kum, kum, bruder mayn, di velt iz nit dayn!
Dem posek hostu gelerent shoyn frier:"

One who digs a hole for another falls into it himself.

I still remember how when I was a little kid in kheyder,
The rebbe praised me endlessly because I was a good boy.
He'd say: Listen to what I'm teaching you, be an upstanding person!
Don't seek to take somebody else's happiness, and remember: there is a God.
Just be honest and fine and you'll live your life happily.
And if you don't, God preserve us! There's a passage in the Torah:

"You dig a hole and you fall in."
Keep this in mind, child, you must know it's a great sin.
One who loves only himself and seeks to dig a hole for another
Must, in the end, fall into the hole himself.

Many years ago I used to think nobody would rob from another.
If someone has happiness, it comes from God of course,
So how is that another's business?
But now I see everyone trying to steal more and more.
They don't care at all if another is ruined, as long as you can become a millionaire.
He swindles and schemes until his youth is gone and death is already knocking on his door.
"Come, brother mine, this world's no longer yours,
You learned the passage long ago:"



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

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