Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Ekskiuz mi host a toes gehat (1899 Yiddish parody of the Nathan Bivins song of 1899, "I Ain't Seen No Messenger Boy")

Excuse me, you made a mistake
With the melody from the English song
Messenger Boy Created by Louis Gilrod
Sung with great success by the beloved soubrette
Mrs B. Vilenski




One of the odious features of this sheet music cover is the inset, a lady in a big hat seemingly holding upon her palm a miniature messenger boy. As I've mentioned before, this period is shunned by right-thinking people but like it or not, it happened. (Just like our current period. And all the periods in between. They've all been vile, just more or less covered up.)

I believe the beloved soubrette Mrs. B. Vilensky is Miriam Katz aka Mary Wilensky. From Zylbercweig: "At the age of fourteen she married the prompter Bernard Wilensky and, when Adler came in 1893 to guest star in Lemberg, he took her to America."

I made a tentative attempt to sing with the Yiddish theater dialect this time. I'd put out a request on the Facebook Yidforsh group for information on these vowel shifts, and got everything from answers so detailed and erudite I could not understand them at all to people pointing out that, as I've seen myself, the kupletists were not above using vowels from any dialect in order to make their rhymes.

This tune is repetitive and wordy, and even just two verses made for an awfully long song. So I asked my brilliant friend Glenn Mehrbach if he could fancy up the ragtime accompaniment to disguise the tune's drawbacks, and he did a great job! Here's our rendition:



Transliteration of the two verses I sang, and translation, after the jump.
Ekskiuz mi host a toes gehat

Ikh hob kontshaft geshlosn mit a faynem yungn man, a dzshentlman if yu plis
Er hot mir oysgetsaygt fayn elegant nor geredt hot men af im mies
Tsu kontsertn un tsu beler hot er mikh geshlept un hot mikh zeyer fayn amuzirt
Ikh hob nit geakhtet vos me hot af im geredt un mit im zikh umgefirt
Nor plutsim hob ikh mikh aleyn ibertsaygt az er iz nit azoy gut un frum
Tsu mayn badoyern hob ikh ayngezen dos ikh hob a toes gehat in im
Dos mir iz farshvindn a daymond ring, hob ikh mir arum gezen
Un als er hot epes mer nokh probirt hob ikh im gezogt gants sheyn:

Ekskiuz mi guter bruder host a toes gehat
Host gemeynt es vet vi imer yetst oykh opgeyn zo glat
Darum fayner layt- zay oys di tsayt
Befor es vert tsu shpet
Ikh vil dikh mer nit kenen bist nit far mir
Host lib tsu shlepn ales vos belongt nit tsu dir
Host gemeynt vi mit der ring vet dir yetst oykh opgey gring
Nor ekskiuz mi host a toes gehat

Mayner a fraynd a singlman, iz a border zayt er iz in land
Er lakht oys ale vos heyratn, farheyrat zayn zogt er iz a shand
Er hot letste vokh arayngemuft in bord, tsu a misesl gants sheyn
Vayl zogt er es iz mer bakvem, ven di mises hot mer a bisl kheyn
Nor hert, hert, plutsim, vos iz geshen, vos hot mit mayn fraynd pasirt
Di mises hot im gegebn tsu farshteyn dos er hot nit sheyn zikh oysfirt
Er hot nit gefolgt, un geton zikh zayns, di mises hot nit fil zikh geplogt
Zi hot im tsepatsht un tsu mufn gemakht un dan hot zi im gezogt:

Ekskiuz mi guter bruder host a toes gehat
Host gemeynt es vet vi imer yetst oykh opgeyn zo glat
Darum fayner layt - zay oys di tsayt
Befor es vert tsu shpet
Ikh vil dikh mer nit kenen [du] bist nit far mir
Host lib tsu shlepn ales vos belongt nit tsu dir
Host gemeynt vi iberal vet do oykh zayn der fal
Nor ekskiuz mi host a toes gehat


Excuse me, you're wrong

I made the acquaintance of a fine young man, a gentleman if you please,
He appeared quite elegant but people spoke badly of him
He took me to concerts and balls and amused me very nicely
I didn't pay attention to what people told me and I went around with him
But suddenly I saw he wasn't so good and pious
To my misfortune I realized I'd made a mistake about him:
My diamond ring disappeared! So I got hold of myself.
And everything he tried after that, I said prettily to him:

Excuse me, good brother, you've made a mistake
You thought it would always go so smoothly
So, fine people, walk away before it is too late
I disdain you, you're not for me
You like to take everything that doesn't belong to you
You thought everything would be as easy as the ring,
But excuse me, you're wrong.

One of my friends, a single man, has been a boarder since he came to this country.
He laughs at everybody who gets married, he says it's a disgrace.
Last week he moved, to board with a very pretty little landlady
Because, he says, it's more comfortable when the landlady is charming.
But listen to what suddenly happened, what went down with my friend:
The landlady let him know he wasn't behaving well.
He ignored her warning and continued his usual behavior. The landlady didn't complain long,
She slapped him and made him move out, and then said to him:

Excuse me, good brother, you made a mistake
You thought it would always go so smoothly
So, fine people, disappear before it is too late
From now on I disdain you, you're not for me.
You like to take everything that doesn't belong to you.
You thought what usually happens was going to happen this time, too,
But excuse me, you're in error.

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

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