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DER YIDDISH-VINKL September 10, 2004

This column is the third in a series by Dr. Barnett Zumoff. The selections were chosen by Zumoff in response to our asking him to let us know which of his countless translations of Yiddish poetry into English is his very personal favorite. He told us that there was no single one, but that he did have three favorites. The final poem in the series is by Tsilye (Celia) Dropkin.

Tsu a Yunger Dikhterin

Vos iz derfun, az dayn blik dringt tif arayn in zakhn?

Dayn harts, dayn harts shloft.

Un az er iz gekumen

Un du host mit klore blikn

A kuk geton oyf im, vi oyf a zun

Vos iz derfun?

Darfst dray mol, vi ikh, brenen in gehenem

Oyf a fayer fun libe —

Lang, langzam brenen;

Darfst dray mol, vi ikh

In gehenem gelaytert vern;

Darfst libn on seykhl, on shtolts—

Libn bizn toyt!

Dan, ven du vest dem toyt

In libe derkenen

Shrayb libe-lider!

To a Young Poetess

What good is it

That your gaze pierces deeply into things?

Your heart, your heart is as asleep.

And when he came

And you gazed clearly

At him as at a sun —

What good did it do?

You have to burn three times like me

In hell in the fire of love —

Burn long and slowly;

You have to be purified three times

in hell, like me;

You have to love unwisely, without pride,

Love unto death;

Then when you recognize death in love

Then write love poetry.

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