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DER YIDDISH-VINKL February 21, 2003

It is not often that a poem written by an Indian from ancient India is translated into Yiddish and then further translated from the Yiddish into English. But here is an exception to the rule.

Rabindramath Tagore (1861-1941) wrote a poem titled “Why” in which he makes a frustrating psycho-philosophical observation. To be overly protective or overly expectant of anything, be it a light, a flower or a violin string, can destroy the thing we love. In common parlance, it is the danger that “mother love” may often turn out to be “smother love.”

“Mir Trogn a Gezang” appears in Joseph and Eleanor Gordon Mlotek’s compilation of Yiddish songs. This English version is by Gus Tyler.

Far Vos

Far vos iz dos likhtele farloshn?

Ikh hob es gehitn fun vint un fun shturem

Gevolt es zol brenen

Derfar iz dos likhtele farloshn.

Far vos iz dos blimele farvyanet?

Ikh hob es gehitn, tsum hartsn getulyet

Gevolt es zol blien —

Derfar iz dos blimele farvyanet.

Far vos iz di strune tserisn

Ikh hob zi getsoygn alts hekher un shtarker

Gevolt zi zol shpiln —

Derfar iz di strune tserisn.


Now tell me why the light went out.

I shielded it from wind and storm

To keep it burning to the dawn.

And that is why the light went out.

Now tell me why this flower did fade

I held it tightly to my heart

Made sure that it would never part.

And that is why this flower did fade.

Why is it that this string is torn

I tightened it to make it loud

To make its voice sound strong and proud.

And that is why the string is torn.

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