Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Efim Chorny: On The Way Stands A Tree

Here is a well-known Yiddish lullaby, Afn Veg Shteyt a Boym (“On the Way Stands a Tree”), based on the poem by Yiddish writer Itzik Manger [1901-1969]. The singer, Efim Chorny of Klezmer Alliance, is from Kishinev, Moldova.

Itzik Manger's poem was made into a short film, The Bent Tree (1979), which explain the significance of this fable:
Written in the 1930s, the poem immediately went into the Yiddish folk song cannon, even mentioned as being recited by partisans as they were leaving the Warsaw Ghetto. With a lone singing voice and occasional English voice-over, the film tells of a child's yearnings and a mother's responsibility. (There is also a Yiddish-only version).
The poem in lyrical form describes the travails and the tears of a mother watching her children growing up and the worries of being a parent. In the end, we want the best for our children; we teach them so they can achieve a degree of independence. Such is a good and necessary thing. It's only then that our children can become good parents; and the cycle continues.

Here is a transliteration of  the Yiddish poem / and a Literal English Translation by Josh Waletzky:

Afn veg shteyt a boym, / On the road stands a tree,
Shteyt er ayngeboygn, / It stands bent over,
Ale feygl funem boym / All the birds of the tree
Zaynen zikh tsefloygn. / Have dispersed.
Dray keyn mizrekh, dray keyn mayrev, / Three toward the east, three toward the west,
Un der resht keyn dorem, / And the rest toward the south,
Un dem boym gelozt aleyn / And have left the tree alone
Hefker far dem shturem. / Unlooked-after before the storm.
Zog ikh tsu der mamen, "her, / I say to my mother, “Listen,
Zolst mir nor nit shtern, / Don't interfere with me,
Vel ikh, mame, eyns un tsvey / Mother, I will in no time
Bald a foygl vern. / Soon become a bird.
Ikh vel zitsn afn boym / I will sit on the tree
Un vel im farvign / And will put him to sleep
Ibern vinter mit a treyst, / Over the winter with consolation,
Mit a sheynem nign." / With a beautiful melody.”

Zogt di mame, "nite, kind," / Says the mother, “No, child,”
Un zi veynt mit trern, / And she cries with tears,
"Vest kholile afn boym / “On the tree, God forbid, you will
Mir farfroyrn vern." / Freeze to death on me."
Zog ikh, "mame, s'iz a shod / Says I, “Mother, (your tears) are a waste of
Dayne sheyne oygn, / Your beautiful eyes,
Un eyder vos un eyder ven, / Before you know it,
Bin ikh mir a foygl." / I will become a bird.”
Veynt di mame, "Itsik, kroyn, / Cries the mother, “Itsik, my crown,
Ze, um gotes viln, / For God's sake,
Nem zikh mit a shalikl, / Take with you a scarf,
Kenst zikh nokh farkiln. / You can catch cold.
Di kaloshn tu zikh on, / Put on your galoshes,
S'geyt a sharfer vinter, / It is a bitter winter,
Un di kutshme nem oykh mit, / And also take the fur hat,
Vey iz mir un vind mir." / Woe is me, woe is me.”
"Un dos vinter-laybl nem / “And your winter undershirt
Tu es on, du shoyte, / Put on, you blockhead,
Oyb du vilst nit zayn keyn gast / If you do not want to be a guest
Tsvishn ale toyte." / Among the dead.”
Kh'heyb di fligl, s'iz mir shver, / I lift up my wings, it's hard for me,
Tsu fil, tsu fil zakhn / In too many, too many things
Hot di mame ongeton / Has my mother dressed
Ir feygele, dem shvakhn. / Her little bird, the weak one.
Kuk ikh troyerik mir arayn / I gaze sadly into
In mayn mames oygn, / My mother's eyes,
S'hot ir libshaft nit gelozt / Her love has not let me
Vern mir a foygl. / Become a bird.
Afn veg shteyt a boym, / On the road stands a tree,
Shteyt er ayngeboygn, / It stands bent over,
Ale feygl funem boym / All the birds of the tree
Zaynen zikh tsefloygn. / Have dispersed.


  1. Beautiful music. A beautiful poem. It's as moving as, say, the final scene in Puccini's "La Boheme."


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