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DER YIDDISH-VINKL January 3, 2003

Eliezer Steinbarg (1880-1932) was a Yiddish Aesop in poetic form. And, as in the case of Aesop’s fables, the meaning of his allegories is as much dependent on the reader as on the writer. His contemporaries thought highly of him. One of them, the famous Hayyim Nahman Bialik, wrote: “Each fable has its own charm and magic. Steinbarg is a great artist whose writings will forever embellish our literature. He was featured in a recent issue of the Forverts. The following transliteration and translation are by Ruth Levitan.

Der Hamer un Dos Shtik Ayzn

Es hot der kop, der ayzener der shtarker hamer

Vos baym koval yoykhentse in kamer

Zikh genumen klapn dos shtik ayzn

Al pi khikire im dervayzn —

Az me darf zayn klug, geduldik

Un nisht zogn keynem — du bist shuldik —


Bist umzist nor, zogt er, oyf mir beyz

Narish iz dayn sheltn,

Lepish iz dayn shrayen

Aderabe zog — Ikh bin shuldik vos ikh shlog?

Vos bin ikh den? Mer vi a kley zayen

In dem kovals hent

Un der koval, meynstu — s’iz in im gevent?

Host a tues, benemones!

Punkt kapoyer! Oyf im iz a Gots rakhmones

Er iz nebekh mid, dershlogn

S’vilt zikh im gor ruen.

Nor a brere? Nu vos zol er nebekh tun?

Zest in droysn shteyt a kranker vogn

Oysgeboygn oyfn linkn aksl

Muz der Koval shmidn az di aksl zol zayn gezunt un shtark.

Epes dort geshen mit ir aropn barg

Ober oykhet oyf dem vogn

Zolstu zikh nit klogn

Ez muz kiseyder

Dreyen di reder

S’shlepn im di ferd vuhin zey yogn

Un di ferd — oy, zay oyf zey nit broyges

Shlepn iz zey oykh nit nikhe,

Nor vos toyg es?

S’traybt di baytsh! Di baytsh! Un zi aleyn

Oykh nit shuldik — neyn!

S’iz a mayse on an ek —

Farshtey nor gut dem rayen

Her of tsu sheltn, shrayen

Vayl farshteyn heyst fartsayen


Shrayt dos ayzn un mit fayer shit es

Naye hamers, naye shites,

Harget, shlogt — un iz a bruder

Eytses git er!

— Shvaygn, ven unter di klep ikh tsiter?

Tsvishn hamer un Kovadle?!

Moykhl, moykhl dir es

Oy, mayn veytik on a shir iz

Vel ikh sheltn, vel ikh shrayen on khikires

The Hammer and the Iron Bit

The head of the strong iron hammer

That dwelt in the room of the blacksmith

Began to beat a piece of iron

To show it, according to research,

That you have to be bright and patient

And not say to anyone, “You are guilty.”


You are angry with me for no reason

Foolish is your cursing

Crude is your screaming

Rather say: “I am guilty that I beat? I am nothing more than a weapon

In the hands of the blacksmith.”

And you think it depends on the blacksmith?

Truly, you are mistaken.

On the contrary, he is to be pitied

He is sadly tired and depressed.

He would really like to rest.

But he has no choice — what should he do?

Look, outdoors stands a decrepit wagon

Its left axle is bent

The blacksmith must forge the axle

to make it whole and strong.

Something happened to it when it went downhill

Also, don’t complain about the wagon.

It must constantly turn the wheels.

The horses pull it wherever they speed

And the horses — don’t be angry with them

They pull well — but what’s the use?

The whip drives, the whip and it alone —

Also, not guilty — No!

It’s a story without an end.

Understand the idea well:

Stop cursing, stop screaming,

Because understanding means pardoning

The iron screams and spits fire

New hammers, new systems,

Beats, maims and is ready to give advice:

To be quiet when I tremble under the lashes

Between the hammer and the blacksmith

There is no forgiveness, my pain is without end.

So I’ll curse and I’ll scream and ask no more questions.

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