Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fun Vigl biz in Keyver -- From the Cradle to the Grave

We return this week to Liudmila Shor from Vinnitsa, Ukraine, who sings a haunting song that she learned from her mother. "Fun Vigl biz in Keyver" was written by Anshel Schorr with music composed by Yosef Rumshinsky. The sheet music was published in New York by the Hebrew Publishing Company in 1911. Although Liudmila is unaware of the song's origins or authorship, "Fun Vigl biz in Keyver" is a theater song, written for Rumshinsky's operetta "Shir Hashirim - Dos Lid der Libe" ("Song of Songs - The Song of Love"). The operetta "has been described as the first [Yiddish] stage musical about love" (Mark Slobin, Tenement Songs, 128.)

Below is Liudmila's version of the lyrics. The words differ slightly from the original, as the song went through a process of folklorization before reaching Vinnitsa. While there are a number of Yiddish songs about growing old and searching for one's youth (see, for example, Mordechai Gebirtig's "Hulyet, hulyet kinderlekh," and the folk song "Avek di yunge yorn"), this piece is perhaps the most somber in tone, coming to the rather hopeless conclusion that "It is but a short stride from the cradle to the grave." The melodramatic nature of the song can be attributed to the fact that it comes from an operetta, a famously melodramatic genre in Yiddish culture.

I have lived just eighty years.
How quickly, how quickly it has flown by.
White as snow is my blond hair.
My back is bent in three places.

My childhood years will not be forgotten,
How they were formed.
How my mother sat by my cradle,
And sang me a song.

The whole world is a black dream,
And everything is vanity of vanities.
It's but a short stride from the cradle to the grave,
And everything is no more than a dream.

I was not a child,
Oh how quickly and swiftly,
And the grave is already waiting for me.
כ'האָב אָפּגעלעבט ערשט אַכציק יאָר.
װי שנעל, װי שנעל איז עס אױספֿאַרפֿלױגן.
װײַס װי שנײ זענען די בלאָנדע האָר,
דער רוקן אין דרײַען איז אײַנגעבױגן.

די קינדעריאָרן, זײ װעלן זיך נישט פֿאַרגעסן,
װי אַזױ זײ האָבן זיך אײַנגעבילדעט.
װי די מוטער מײַנע איז בײַ דעם װיגעלע געזעסן,
און האָט זיך מיר, אױ אױ, אַ לידעלע געזונגען.

די גאַנצע װעלט איז אַ פֿינצטערער חלום,
און אַלעס איז הבֿל הבֿלים.
אַ קורצער שפּאַן איז פֿון דעם װיגעלע צום גרוב,
און אַלעס איז נישט מײן װי אַ חלום.

איך בין נישט געװעזן אַ קינד,
אױ װי גיך און געשװינד,
און עס װאַרט שױן אױף מיר דאָך אַ קבֿר...

--Asya Vaisman