Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Shmaysn vet men mikh shoyn say vi say (They're going to smite me anyway)

Sung with the greatest success by the famous coupletist
Mr. Morris Seidman
Distributed by Sani Shapiro 120 Delancey Street

I've pretty much given up on finding any more of the melodies in the Morris Rund Penny Song collection but every once in a while I give the orphans a whirl. Yesterday I was lucky at the Sound Archives of the National Library of Israel - they have the song printed by Sani Shapiro on a broadside as "Shmaysn" but recorded as Schmasen wet men dich. - and not by Max Zaydman (Seidman) who is named on the Shapiro songsheet, but by comic singer Max Streng (1874-1928).

Max Streng was born in 1874 in Lemberg, Galicia. He was a chorus boy in Gimpel's theatre and started to act in 1891 on the Polish stage, soon after on the Yiddish stage. He toured England, France, Romania, Poland and Germany and then staged theater for for many years in Vienna.

I found this recording of great interest because it is the first I've found of a Yiddish parody set to an American tune! In this case it's "I'm Goin' To Live Anyhow Till I Die," by Shep Edmonds, a tune also used for a parody I recorded called Ven ales iz farbay (check there for a longer discussion). On today's songsheet the original melody is not cited (perhaps because there are minor tweaks to make the Yiddish fit better) and the parodist is anonymous.

There is a strong flavor of the original in the contrafactum. In each version we have a non-religious, good-time-loving hero. In the original English chorus he sings:

I’m goin’ to live anyhow, till I die
I knows ma’ kind of a life ain’t very high
With sticks and stones a you can break a ma bones
[note in the Yiddish he is a "treyf bone"]
You may talk all you want to ’bout me when I’m gone
But I’m goin’ to live anyhow, till I die

I love Max Streng's voice, it is so joyous! Have a listen.

Transliteration of all three verses (Streng sang only two) and translation from the Yiddish after the jump. I had to face the fact that I don't know how to use smote and smitten.

Ikh ken a man fun mitl yor
Vi alt er iz veys ikh nit klor
Nor a man in zayne yorn volt darft fil frumer zayn
Verend der alter denkt farkert
Er hot oylem habe tif in dr'erd
Af yener velt vel ikh tsu im keyn shoytef nit zayn
Vayl er frest fun a treyfe kikh
Ale trayfim?? stoft er in zikh
Shlingt 'oysters' im gedavent
Nu vos darft ir nokh mer
Ven ikh freg dem herr'n fine
"Shrekt aykh yener velt gor nit ayn?"
Nit hobendik keyn ander terets entfert er mir

Shmaysn vet men mikh shoyn say vi say
Af der elter vern frum iz nit keday
Ikh bin in der yungend oykh geven
An apikorus a treyfe beyn
Shmaysn vet men mikh shoyn say vi say

Ikh ken a zeltn sheyne froy
Ir fargangenhayt veys ikh genoy
Zi hot keyn mol heyrat - zi iz oykh singl nit geven
Fraye meynungen hot zi
Zi lakht fun yidishe tseremoni
Der onshtel fun a khupe hot bay ir keyn kheyn
Fraye libe iz ir plan
Zi hot yedes yor eyn ander man
Der khupe un get kost zi nit keyn sakh
Alte vayber fun arum
Kukn af ir zeyer krum
Az zey zogn ir musr entfert zi mit a lakh

Shmaysn vet men mikh shoyn say vi say
Nor plutsling vern frum iz nit keday
Als eyns vel ikh bakumen smuts
Vel ikh krign nokh a paar [pair?] tuts
Shmaysn vet men mikh shoyn say vi say

Ikh ken a man vos lebt on zorg
Hot lib a vayb af borg
Er zukht nor yunge vayblekh - er veyst ober vi men krigt
er hot zayn kunst nit lang farvendt
Mit a yung vaybele zikh bakent
Es hot nit lang gedoyert er hot zi bazigt
Es iz avek getseylte teg
Zi iz arop fun glaykhn veg
Ober bald hot zi barayet aldsing
Mit a trerenfalen blik
Bet zi lozt mir geyn tsurik
Ober hert vi kalt es entfert ir der voyler yung

Shmaysn vet men dikh shoyn say vi say
Nor plutsling vern frum iz nit keday
Koym bistu eynmol in blote arayn
Vet shoyn fun dir keyn layt nit zayn
Shmaysn vet men dikh shoyn say vi say


I know a middle aged man,
How old he is I don't know exactly
But a man of his age should be quite pious
However, this old guy thinks the opposite
He doesn't give a damn about the world to come
He and I won't be associates there
Because he gobbles food from an unclean kitchen
He stuffs every forbidden food into his mouth
He gulps down oysters
What more do you need to know?
When I ask this fine gentleman
"Aren't you afraid at all about the world to come?"
Not having any other answer, he told me this:

I'll get smote eventually. Getting religious in old age
doesn't work out. I was a heretic when I was young, too,
an apostate, a treyf bone. I’ll be smitten some day.

I know an unusually lovely woman
I know her past precisely
She's never been married, but she's also not single
She has "free" ideas
She laughs at Jewish ceremony
Standing under a wedding canopy has no charm for her
Free love is her plan
Every year she has a different 'husband'
A wedding and a divorce cost her nothing

The old ladies around here
look at her very suspiciously
When they lecture her, she answers with a laugh

I'll get smote eventually. But getting religion all of a
sudden? That's not going to happen.
It doesn’t matter if I get hit. So I get poked a couple
times! I'll get smitten eventually

I know a man who lives without worry
He loves "borrowing" wives
He seeks only the young wives -
he knows however how to snag them
He turned his arts for just a short time
Toward a young wife. He made her acquaintance
It didn't go on for long, he drew her in
A few days went by
She left the straight and narrow
But soon she regretted everything
with a tearful glance
She asked "let me go back"
But hear how coldly this fine guy answered her

You'll get smited eventually
But suddenly getting religion won't work
If you land in the mud even just one time
You'll never be "fine people" again
You'll get smited eventually

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