Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Af di felder fun Virginia (Yiddish lyrics to Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia) - 1898 Yiddish vaudeville song

On the fields of Virginia
A parody of the English song
Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia
By Isaac Reingold

This is a good illustration of "parody" not meaning the same thing to us as it did to the Yiddish rhymers and Jewish music publishing companies at the turn of the century. We think of a parody as a humorous reflection of the original text (Wikipedia: "A work which is created to imitate and/or make fun of or comment on an original work—its subject, author, style or some other target—by means of satiric or ironic imitation"). They used the term both to refer to any Yiddish version of an English language song, from Yiddish lyrics with no relationship to the original text (contrafacta) to semi-faithful translations of the original, as in this case. 


Charles Harris was a very successful Tin Pan Alley composer and many of his songs have Yiddish versions in Lider magazin. This one is only unusual in that the Reingold version is not ironic or sarcastic at all - it's full bore pathetic, just like the original. 


I've found the famous American country group The Carter Family did their own versions of these old-fashioned songs a generation later. They generally retained the original lyrics but folk-processed the tunes, maybe to make them easier to sing or play. I asked my friend and band-mate Jim Baird to make me an accompaniment track using a country-esque style, but I can't sing like the Carters, so I used the original tune (the one Reingold would have heard), so this is a hybrid.


Here's my living room recording from a couple days ago:



Lyrics and transliteration of the Yiddish after the jump.

Af di felder fun Virginia bay dem klorn zilber taykh 
shteyt a shtibele fun luksus opgeteylt 
Mit ir alt fartsaytik oyszen iz zi mir eyn kenigraykh, 
den dort voynt di vos mayn herts hot oys derveylt 

Meg di velt mit ire fargenigns glantsn on a shir 
Mir blaybt nor eyn vuntsh in mayn lebns tsvek 

tsu zen mayn yugnt frayndin shpatsirndik mit mir 
Af di felder fun Virginia vayt avek 

In mayn eynzamkeyt aleyn bin ikh elnt vi a shteyn, 
Mayn herts tsegeyt mir, benkendik a shrek. 
Nokh dem lebns goldene shtundn velkhe ikh hob dan gespent 
Af di felder fun Virginia vayt avek.. 

Af di felder fun Virginia, dortn hob ikh zi derkent
Dort hob ikh mit ir farbrakht, zo lib un tsart,
Dort hob ikh ir erklert mayn libe, nor zi hot mikh opgevendt
Ikh hob gehoft, ikh hob mikh layder opgenart

Yo, farshtanen hot zi nit mayn libe yenes oygnblik
Geendikt hot zikh dan mayn lebns tsvek,
Dort hob ikh dan bagrobn mayn hofnung un mayn glik
Af di felder fun Virginia vayt avek

Af di felder fun Virginia shteyt an alte mill baym shtrom
Dortn zits ikh oft, farzunken in mayn shmerts.
O vi gern volt ikh ruen, inem tifn kaltn thom (abyss)
Un fargesn dos, vos drikt un prest mayn herts.
Meg di tsayt mayn yugnt roybn, velkn meg mayn lebns farb.
Dokh eybik vel ikh benken on a tsvek.
Nokh eynmol zi bagegnt, dan leyg ikh mikh un shtarb
Af di felder fun Virginia vayt avek.

On the fields of Virginia, by the clear silver river
A little house stands, nothing luxurious.
With its old-fashioned appearance, it's a kingdom for me
Because that's where the girl my heart has chosen lives

Let the world with all its pleasures shine endlessly
I have, still, only one wish, one life's goal
To see my childhood girlfriend walking with me
On the fields of Virginia, far away

Alone in my isolation, I am desolate as a stone
My heart is giving out, longing so terribly
For the golden hours of my life I spent
On the fields of Virginia, far away

On the fields of Virginia, there I came to know her
There I spent time with her, so dear and tender
It was there I professed my love, but she turned from me
I hoped, but I was sadly deceived

My love didn't understand that blink of an eye
Ended my life's goal
There, then, I buried my hope and my happiness
On the fields of Virginia far away

On the fields of Virginia an old mill stands by a stream
I often sit there, sunken in my pain
Oh, how ready I am to rest in the deep cold abyss
And forget that which oppresses my heart

May time steal my youth, may my life's color fade,
Still always I'll long, aimlessly,
Just once to meet her, then I'll lie down and die
On the fields of Virginia, far away

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:


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