Fragment of a folklorized song about the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Collected from Ben Levine (Los Angeles) and Jack Moroff (Lakewood, New Jersey). The version printed here was one of the three appearing in Yidisher folklor, 1, 1954.
The complete text of the song was published in a collection of theatre songs Fun zayn vaybs man (From his wife’s husband) and was entitled “Di amerikaner shif” (The American Ship). It was written in 1911 by Joshua Rayzner, a folksinger in Lodz. A year later, it became associated in the minds of the people with the sinking of the Titanic. The song was sung in the revue theatre Sambatyon in Warsaw in the 1930’s.
Part of the melody of the refrain appears in the song “Der Hoyfzinger fun varshever geto”, in: Chana Mlotek and Malke Gottlieb, We Are Here.
Surely, dear people, you’ve heard what occurred at sea,
An American ship turned over and many people drowned.
Oh, just imagine, dear people, the scene,
When all the water flooded the machines and the electricity went out.
Newlyweds sat full of joy,
Their joy undisturbed by anyone.
They cried: Dear God, why are you separating us?
But dear God did not listen to them.
Ir hot gevis, libe mentshn, gehert,
Vos oyf dem ya-va-vam [yam] hot zikh farlofn:
A ‘mericaner shif hot zikh ibergekert
Un file mentshn zenen dertrunken gevorn.
Oy, shtelts aykh for, libe mentshn,
Vi groys s’iz geven gots tsorn
Ven file vaser iz arayn
in di mashinen,
Un di ‘lektere* is farloshn gevorn.
Oy, khosn-kale zenen zikh gezesn in freydn,
Zeyer freyd hot dokh keyner nisht geshtert,
Zey hobn geshrign: — Liber got, vos tustu undz tsesheydn?
Ober der liber got hot zikh tsu zey nisht tsugehert.
איר האָט געװיס, ליבע מענטשן, געהערט,
װאָס אױף דעם יאַ־װאַ־װאַם (ים) האָט זיך פֿאַרלאָפֿן:
אַ ‘מעריקאַנער שיף האָט זיך איבערגעקערט
און פֿילע מענטשן זענען דערטרונקען געװאָרן.
אױ, שטעלטס אײַך פֿאָר, ליבע מענטשן, די קאַרטינע,
װי גרױס ס’איז געװען גאָטס צאָרן,
װען פֿילע װאַסער איז אַראַ־אַן (אַרײַן) אין די מאַשינען.
און די ‘לעקטערע איז פֿאַרלאָשן געװאָרן.
אױ, חתן־כּלה זענען זיך געזעסן אין פֿרײדן,
זײער פֿרײד האָט דאָך קײנער נישט געשטערט,
זײ האָבן געשריגן: — ליבער גאָט, װאָס טוסטו אונדז צעשײדן?
אָבער דער ליבער גאָט האָט זיך צו זײ נישט צוגעהערט.
Song Title: Lid Fun Titanik
First published in 1988 as Pearls of Yiddish Song: Favorite Folk, Art and Theatre Songs, this anthology contains 115 songs. Some material had never been published, while others, included in rare song collections or sheet music, were largely inaccessible. The songs presented reflect Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the United States and depict childhood, love, family celebrations, poverty, work and struggle. There are also songs from the Hasidic and Maskilic movements, songs of Zion and of America, as well as songs from the Yiddish theater.
The title of this anthology derives from the weekly two-page feature column “Pearls of Yiddish Poetry,” which the compilers Yosl and Chana Mlotek initiated in 1970 in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forvertz (the Yiddish Daily Forward). Hundreds of readers from around the world — including authors, composers, singers, actors — became co-participants in this collective folk project and recalled melodies, lines, fragments, stanzas and their variants of songs, poems, and plays which they had heard in their youth. At first, readers sent in only written material. Later, they also taped songs on cassettes, many of whose melodies had, until then, never been recorded. They also identified and supplied missing information regarding lyricists, poets, and composers and described the circumstances surrounding the songs’ origins, their dissemination, diffusion and impact.