On the occasion of his 85th birthday, Khayim Beyder was featured in the Forverts on the pages devoted to Pearls of Yiddish Poetry. He was no stranger to readers, as he wrote weekly about the classicists. He also conducted a program on the paper’s radio show, Forverts Hour. In 2000 the Yiddish Writers in Israel Union awarded him the prestigious David Hofshtein Prize.
What follows is from his book, “Khanukes-Habayis” (“House-warming Celebration”), published in Moscow in 1979. The transliteration is by Goldie Gold; the English version is by Gus Tyler.
In zal in shtumen iz nor vos
A toyte shtilkeyt ersht gehangen —
Un mitamol geton a gos
Hot zikh a velt mit vunder-klangen.
Nito keyn zal, nito keyn vent,
Farshvundn bald iz alts gevorn
Un unter tsoyberdike hent
A kishef-kholem vert geborn.
Ot roysht a yam, ot verter mild,
A duner knelt un shtarbt in vaytn;
Ot vert in dir dos blut farkilt —
Ot broyzt es oyf in flam farshaytn…
Un nit keyn strunes — konst dos kol
Fun eybikeyt atsind dershpirn
Nit gantsn lebn in batsol
Abi dem sholem nit farlirn.
Within the room there is no sound
A deadly silence does prevail
But then great tunes do sound around
Over every hill and dale
There is no room, there are no walls
All that was — it is no more
A voice refreshing, now it calls
A voice one never can ignore
An ocean roars, and then it’s calm
A thunder sounds, it’s far away
And now it’s calming like a psalm
And then erupts in wanton way
It’s not mere strumming strings you hear
The voice — it is eternity.
You pay for it each passing year
The dream with you will ever be.
* * *
On Bobes un Zeydes
Landslayt mayne, shoyn geblibn veyniklekh
Vildgroz hot mayn shtetele farhilt
On di bobes zaynen oysgevaksn eyniklekh
On di zeydes hot men khasines geshpilt.
Nit dos lid vegn dem klor-vaysn tsigele
Hot tsum shlof mayn zun, mayn bokher bagleyt
S’hobn yedn ovnt bay zayn vigele
Shvartse shparbers shedine zikh gedreyt
Vos zhe vilt ir fun dem dor atsindikn?
“Kinder,” zogt ir, “veysn nit fun fun vey!”
Nu, iz vos? Badarfn mir nit zindikn,
Vayl mir hobn shoyn gelitn oykh far zey
Opgevishte, oysgemekte shtetelekh
Troyerik geven iz zeyer sof…
Kinder mayne, tsarte tsvaygn, bletelekh
Zol der fridn hitn ayer shlof.
Without Grandpas and Grandmas
Of my countrymen, just few remain
My shtetl has been eaten up by grass
No grannies ’round old values to sustain
And grandpas also weren’t there, alas!
There were no songs about the pure white lamb
To soothe my darling son into his sleep
Each night into his little room did cram
The noisiest of birds to make him weep.
What can we from these children then expect?
Some say that children never know of pain
Enough if they their parents do respect
The older virtues now are on the wane.
The kind of life in little towns is gone
Tragic was the way that it did go
Oh, tender buds that unto us were born
We hope that peace you’ll someday come to know!