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DER YIDDISH-VINKL July 11, 2003

The columns in the Forverts titled “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry” observed the 65th anniversary of Abraham Liessin’s death. He was born in Minsk in 1872 and studied at several outstanding yeshivas. But he reached out to the secular world and to the young radicals who idolized him, secretly distributing his incendiary poems and articles from hand to hand. Liessin drew his material from Jewish historical texts about heroes and martyrs as well as from the oppressions of the czarist regimes.

The poem that follows was set to music. It commemorated the Russian revolutionaries condemned to Siberia. The title of the poem, “Di Lena,” refers to a river by that name in Siberia.

Liessin came to America in 1896 and worked at the Forverts for 13 years. He is also the author of the Workmen’s Circle hymn.

The above introduction, as well as the transliteration and the translation of the poem, is the work of Betty Perlov of Monroe, N.Y.

Di Lena (A fragment)

In land vu es kayklt zikh di Lena

Ir mekhtikn vaser dem kaltn —

Dort shteyt zikh a kleyninke yurte

In eybike shneyen bahaltn.

Zi shteyt zikh, a shpil farn shurem

Farvorfn in mitn dem feld —

Dort shmakht es in zayn elnt

Der kranker, der shtarbndiker held.

The Lena

In the land where the billowing Lena

Heaves her mighty waters so frigid —

Ancient snow conceals the yurta

A stout little tent, standing rigid.

She is great sport for the storms

In the games that they play on this field.

There in his icy aloneness

The moribund hero’s revealed.

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