On his 50th yahrzeit, poet Yosef Rolnick was featured in the Forverts on the pages devoted to Pearls of Yiddish Poetry. Rolnick’s poems were the works of a man whose life was crammed with loneliness, sorrow and sentiment. What follows is his most famous poem, “Zun in Mayrev” (“The Sun in the West”), as transliterated by Goldie Gold and translated into English by Gus Tyler.
Zun in Mayrev
Zun in mayrev zetst zikh gikh
Vos darf nokh a mentsh vi ikh?
Lider, kleyne lider.
Groyse shtet un naye lender
Bin a durkhgeyer, a fremder,
Noent zaynen lider.
Nisht faranen oyf der erd
Nokh a freyd, vi di, vos vert
Oyfgevekt fun lider.
Nor eyn vuntsh iz mir geblibn:
Volt a gantse nakht geshribn
Ver veyst morgendikn tog?
Lider… alts vos ikh farmog
Zoln blaybn lider.
Got, mayn shitsung un mayn vant…
Leyz mikh oys fun fun shniters hant
Leyz mikh oys mit lider.
The Sun in the West
The sun sets quickly in the West
For folk like me, that is the best
Songs, just little songs.
Giant cities and new lands
I’m just a stranger on new sands
Surrounded by my songs.
There’s nothing really on the earth
To make me feel a rare rebirth
Awakened by my songs.
There is one wish that still remains
Through all the night pour from my brains
A flood of silent songs.
Who knows just what tomorrow brings
All I own are tunes one sings
I’m happy with my songs.
Oh, God, with you I take my stand
Please keep me from the reaper’s hand
Keep me alive with my sweet songs.
A Correction for the Record
Several weeks ago, a column by Stanley Siegelman on Viagra had a major misprint. The closing line of this poem should have read Zey valgenen zikh nit arup fun bet. The word “nit” was omitted.