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."


All comments ought to reflect the post in question. All comments are moderated; and inappropriate comments, including those that attack persons, those that use profanity and those that are hateful, will not be tolerated. So, keep it on target, clean and thoughtful. This is not a forum for personal vendettas or to create a toxic environment. The chief idea is to engage, to discuss and to critique issues. Doing so within acceptable norms will make the process more rewarding and healthy for everyone. Accordingly, anonymous comments will not be posted.