Published May 28, 2004, issue of May 28, 2004.
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On the occasion of his 50th yahrzeit, the poet Y.Y. Sigal is featured in the pages of the Forward devoted to “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry.” A resident of Montreal, Sigal won fame in both Canada and the United States. Leonard Bernstein’s “Arias and Barcaroles” includes one of Sigal’s poems, titled “Oyf Mayn Khasene. It is sung in Yiddish in a collection otherwise in English. What follows is the poem as transliterated by Goldie Gold. The English version is by Gus Tyler.

Oyf Mayn KhaseneOyf mayn khasene hot geshpiltA royter freylikher klezmerOyf dem klenstn, shtilstn fideleGeshpilt hot er a troyeriksAn alt-fartsaytikt umetik lideleAlte klezmer hobn shtum gegaft:Vu hot er der royter yung gekhapt?Az beskhakl nekhtikt er un togt in derferShpilt oyf goyishe sikere vetshernitses,Un beskhakl kon er koym a shaytl ivre draptshen,Shlofn shloft er oyf a hartn taptshan.Esn est er vu es makht zikh dortn:A shikse shenkt im retekhlekh fun gortn. A boke iz er un a kharef in dem seyfer kortnMit ale pitshevkes, perushim un dikdukim,Nor a vunder un a kholem iz geven oyf im tsu kukn:Di aksl un der kop, un noz un oyerHobn kishefdik bay im gelakht mit freyd un troyerUn dos gantse dare knokhevate ponemHot gekvoln vi a lebediker brunem.Oyf mayn khasene hot ot der yung geshpilt Az s’hot fun ort gehoybn—fis hobn gevolt A ris-ton zikh, un zaynen shteyn geblibn,Oyern hobn zikh farshpitst vi shpizn,Un dos fidele hot gekusht, gerisn,Gebisn shtiker bis tsu veytik un geknipnBiz tsum blut di ongetsoygene odern-strunes ,Azh di alte hobn zikh gebetn: hob rakhmones.At My WeddingAt my wedding there did playA klezmer with red hair, I’d sayUsed his fiddle so one and allBeneath his sad glad spell would fall.He played an ancient saddening tuneOld klezmer said: “Please tell us soonWhere did this red-haired boyThis music find that brings us joy?”In any village that comes and callsHe plays at goyish drunken brawlsOf Hebrew he knows not a wordHe sleeps on surfaces absurd.He eats where’er he finds a biteA shikse feeds him yard delightBy any measure you applyHe is a dream unto the eye.His shoulders, head, his nose and ear,They laugh with suffering and good cheerOh yes, this bony, beaming faceWith love it glitters for our race.’Twas at my wedding he did playIt roused us all to swing and swayThe fiddle kissed and also bitInto your heart its arrows hit.It pained the oldsters, who would sayOh, please, take pity … go away.

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