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DER YIDDISH-VINKL May 14, 2004

People like tough puzzles that are easily solved. That’s why in every language there are riddle songs that pose tough, seemingly unanswerable questions that somehow, with a touch of humor, are easily answered. One such is a Jewish folk song entitled, “Du Meydele, Du Sheyns.” What follows is this charming folk song from a volume entitled “Jewish Folk Songs,” transliterated and translated by Ruth Rubin who, until her death in 2000, was a celebrated Jewish song performer, musicologist and translator.

Du meydele du fayns, du meydele, du sheyns

Ikh vel dir epes fregn — a retenish a kleyns.

Vos is hekher fun a hoyz?

Un vos iz flinker fun a moyz?

Du narisher bokher, du narisher khlop

Host dokh nit kayn seykhl in dayn kop!

Der roykh is hekher fun a hoyz.

A kats is flinker fun a moyz.

Du meydele du fayns, du meydele du sheyns

Ikh vel dir epes fregn — a retenish a kleyns.

Vos flit on fligl?

Un vos iz gemoyert on tsigl?

Du narisher bokher, du narisher khlop!

Host dokh nit kayn seykhl in dayn kop!

Der shney flit on flit.

Der frost iz gemoyert on tsigl.

Du meydele du fayns, du meydele du sheyns

Ikh vel dir epes fregn — a retenish a kleyns.

Vos fara keyser iz on a land?

Un vos fara vaser iz on samd?

Du narisher bokher, du narisher khlop!

Host dokh nit kayn seykhl in dayn kop!

Der keyser fun kortn hot nit kayn land.

Trern fun di oygn zenen on zamd.

English translation

Pretty little girl, can you answer me?

Do you know the answers to my riddles?

What can grow taller than a house?

And what is swifter than a mouse?

Silly fellow you, you are stupid, too

There’s not a brain inside your head.

Smoke rises taller than a house.

A cat is swifter than a mouse.

Pretty little girl, can you answer me?

Do you know the answer to my riddles?

What falls down and doesn’t make a sound?

Builds without bricks upon the bare ground?

Silly fellow you, you are stupid, too.

There’s not a brain inside your head.

Snow falls down and doesn’t make a sound.

Frost needs no bricks to build upon the ground.

Pretty little girl, can you answer me?

Do you know the answers to my riddles?

Where is the king without any land?

And where is there water without a grain of sand?

Silly fellow you, you are stupid, too.

There’s not a brain inside your head.

The king of hearts, he hasn’t any land.

Tears from human eyes haven’t any sand.

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