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Mark Warshawsky (1840-1907) was a versatile poet whose songs voiced both hope and despair, depending on the situation he was describing. In his poem-song “Dem Milner’s Trern” (“The Miller’s Tears”), he sounds a note of melancholy. It is a dark dirge about the Jews who are being driven from their shtetl in czarist Russia. To the miller, it is an ominous hour, foreshadowing the dispossession of the Jew from this earth.

What follows is the text of Warshawsky’s poem as transliterated in the compilation “Mir Trogn a Gezang” by Eleanor “Chana” Gordon Mlotek. The English version is by Gus Tyler.

Dem Milner’s Trern

Oy, vifl yorn

Zaynen farlorn,

Zayt ikh bin milner ot o do?

Di reder dreyen zikh

Di yorn geyen zikh

Ikh bin shoyn alt un grayz un gro.

S’iz teg faranen,

Kh’vil mikh dermanen,

Tsi kh’hob gehat a shtikl glik?

Di reder dreyen zikh

Di yorn geyen zikh,

Keyn entfer iz nito tsurik.

Kh’hob gehert zogn,

Me vil mikh farfogn,

Aroys fun dorf un fun der mil;

Di reder dreyen zikh,

Di yorn gehen zikh

Oy, on an ek un on a tsil.

Vu vel ikh voynen?

Ver vet mikh shoynen?

Ikh bin shoyn alt, ikh bin shoyn mid;

Di reder dreyen zikh,

Di yorn geyen zikh,

Un oykh mit zey geyt oys der yid.

The Miller’s Tears

How many a night and morn

Have come and then have gone,

That I have been a miller here?

The wheels they turn about

The years put time to rout

As I’ve grown old and gray, I fear.

I ask, can I remember

A day like some warm ember

When I did have some luck?

The wheels they turn about

The years put time to rout

The answer’s somewhere stuck.

I’ve heard some people sighing,

Our time is done, we’re dying,

Must leave the town and mill.

The wheels they turn about.

The years put time to rout

My hopes the years now kill.

Where, oh where’s my dwelling?

My every hope’s dispelling.

I’m getting old, I can’t renew.

The wheels they turnabout

The years put time to rout

And soon will vanish every Jew.


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