DER YIDDISH-VINKL February 17, 2006


Published February 17, 2006, issue of February 17, 2006.
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Marc Chagall is an artist of world renown. His paintings of Jewish life, especially those depicting life in the shtetl, are masterpieces that grace the walls of institutions in many lands. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his death, the Forverts devoted its page of Pearls of Yiddish Poetry to Chagall’s work. What follows is a transliteration of selected untitled pieces of his. The Yiddish is by our colleague Goldie Gold, and it is followed by an English version by Gus Tyler.

Of a dream about his homeland, Chagall wrote:

Es klingt in mir di shtot di vayte

Di kloysters vayse, di kloysters vayte.

Un di shuln; di tir is ofn.

Der himl blit, dos lebn flit nokh vayter.

Es benken in mir di gasn krume

Matseyves groe — oyf a barg

Es lign tif di yidn frume

In farb un flakn, in likht un shotn,

Shteyt mayn bild fun vaytn

Ikh vil mit dem mayn harts fardekn.

* * *

Within me rings the town so distant

The cloisters white so far away

It seems to me at this rare instant

My shul with me will always stay

I long for all those streets so crooked

And all those tombstones cold and gray

Here lie the pious in their way

I have the feeling I am one

With all of those whose days are done

This is the way my life does run.

In a more positive tone, he writes:

Ikh hob gemolt di vent di hele

Di klezmer, tentser oyf der bine

Mit farbn bloye, royte, gele

Hob ikh geshonken aykh a shkhine

Ikh vil mit aykh, farshtumpte brider

Tsuamen loyfn tsu di shtern

Di nakhtdi finstere vet likhtik vern

* * *

I painted walls so ever bright

The “klezmer” dancers on the stage

With colors casting magic light

My paintings did become the rage

They really truly were a sight

They ran together with the stars

From gentle Venus unto Mars.

Then once again, the ever moody Chagall writes an elegy to his fellow artists:

Vi ken ikh, vi zol ikh fargisn treren?

Men hot zey oysgeveyt shoyn lang mit zalts fun mayne oygn.

Men hot zey oysgeveykt mit shpot, kedey ikh

Zol farlirn di letste hofnung

Vi zol ikh veynen,

Az yedn tog hob ikh gehert:

Men rayst aroys fun mayn dakh di letste bret,

Ven ikh bin oysgematrt tsu firn a milkhome

Farn shtikel erd oyf velkhen ikh bin geblibn shteyn,

In velkher men vet mikh shpeter leygn shlofn

* * *

Now how can I, should I, shed a tear

They were soaked up, forgot the year

With salt that fell from my own eyes

When people said my words were lies

What use are tears when I am told

My roof has boards that will not hold?

I’m too worn out to fight a war

To hold the land I held before.

So when I die, there’ll be a strip

Where I can end my earthly trip.

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