Yosef Bovshover was one of the “proletarian poets” whose works were well known in the late 1890s. He was the least famous of a group of four poets who dedicated their works to championing the cause of working people. The other three were Morris Winchevsky, Morris Rosenfeld and David Edelstadt. On the occasion of Bovshover’s 90th yahrzeit, the page of the Forverts carrying Pearls of Yiddish Poetry featured Bovshover’s work. What follows is his poem “ A Gezang Tsum Folk .” The transliteration is by Goldie Gold. The English version is by Gus Tyler.
A Gezang Tsum Folk
Heyb oyf dayne oygn, o folk, vos du bist azoy elnt un orem Heyb oyf dayne oygn tsu mizrakh un mayrev, tsu tsofn un dorem
Un ze di gezamelte oytsres,un ze fun dayn arbet di peyres
Un ze dem geblibenem raykhtum fun frier gevezene doyres.
Heyb oyf dayne oygn un ze oyfn yam di gelodene shifn
Un ze in di tunkele velder dem roykh fun di lokomotivn
Un ze vi zey shvebn un kumen geshvind fun a gegnt a vaytn
Un firn in andere lender produktn un skhoyre tsu baytn.
Er ruft tsu di vos “zegn un hublenun vebn, un neyen un shtrikn.
Un shmidn un fayln, un tokn un shnitsn, un gletn un putsn
Un shafn di vare, un shafn dem raykhtum tsum mentshlekhn nutsn…”
Di gantse natur iz bareyt tsu farzisn dayn lebn.
Un fil in dayn brust a farlangen un fil in dayn hartsn a shtrebn
Un mutik in rizike makhnes shtrek oys dayne hent, di fardarte
Genug shoyn tsu zayn di baroybte!
Genug shoyn tsu zayn di genarte!
Ikh kum vayl es hobn tiranen farvandlt di felker in tronen!
Ikh kum vayl me fitert dem fridn mit pulver un blay fun kanonen
Ikh kum vayl di velt iz tseteylt, un der bun fun der mentshayt tserisn
Ikh kum vayl me vil far dem tsaytgayst dem endlozn veltroym farshlisn.
A Song for the People
Lift up your eyes, my folk, so poor and down in the mouth
Lift up your eyes to East and West, to the North and to the South
See all the wealth and treasures that are products of your toil
Without your work and labor
we would have naught but soil.
Lift up your eyes and see the ships that sail across the sea
And in the woods the locomotives running fast and free
And see the many products that they bring from far away
The many lovely products that do brighten up our day.
Without the work of common people just like you and me
This wondrous world in which we live would never, ever be.
We call to those who saw and plane, who hammer and do knit
We call to those who use their hands and those who use their wit.
It’s time for us to break our chains and set our bodies free
To relish nature, love each other, and end the robbery
That takes the wealth that we create, in which we do not share
We say that’s wrong, it’s robbery and certainly not fair.
I come because I wish to end the present tyranny
I want a world that’s just and fair for all, for you and me
I come to share a vision of a world that we can see
If we unite and rise and fight, this world will come to be.