Also entitled “Khaveyrim in kamf” (Comrades in struggle) and “Brider mir hobn geshlosn” (Brothers, we have sworn). Words by Khayim Aleksandrov, pen name of Khayim Miller (1869- 1909). First published in the United States on October 8, 1904. Text and music published in 1930 by Abrasha Vayner.
On July 7, 1909, a witness recalled in Der arbeter (The Worker): “Aleksandrov’s moving song made a strong impact on the fighting Jewish proletariat in the Russian Revolution. The words ‘Brothers, we have sworn for life and death’ made heroes of the enlightened Jewish workers.”
Parts of the song were incorporated into Yiddish workers’ ballads in Eastern Europe: “Gnesi is gegangen fun dem esn” (When Gnesi came from lunch), cf., Z. Skuditski, 1933; “Khanele iz fun der arbet gegangen” (When Khanele came from work), cf., Y. L. Cahan, 1952; Dov and Meir Noy; “Pearls,” November 14 and December 12, 1971; and “Shabes in der fri, azeyger akht” (Saturday morning at 8 o’clock), Z. Skuditski, 1936.
Oh, beloved, we have sworn
a pact for life and death.
We stand as comrades in the struggle–
the red banner in our hands.
And if a bullet should find you, my dearest,
a bullet of the enemy, the dog–
then I’ll carry you immediately from the battle
and heal your wound with my kisses.
And should you fall in battle
and your beloved eyes close,
I’ll wrap you in the red banner
and fall with you in the bloody struggle.
O, liber, mir hobn geshlosn,
Oyf lebn un toyt a farband,
Mir shteyen in shlakht vi genosn,
Di fon di royte in hant.
Un treft dikh a koyl, mayn getrayer,
A koyl fun dem soyne, dem hunt,
Ikh trog dikh aroys bald fun fayer
Un heyl dir mit kushn dayn vund.
Un bistu gefaln a toyter,
Di oygn di libe farmakht,
Ikh vikl dikh ayn in der fon der royter
Un fal in der blutiker shlakht.
אַ ליבער, מיר האָבן געשלאָסן
אױף לעבן און טױט אַ פֿאַרבאַנד,
מיר שטײען אין שלאַכט װי גענאָסן,
די פֿאָן די רױטע אין האַנט.
און טרעפֿט זיך אַ קױל, מײַן געטרײַער,
אַ קױל פֿון דעם שׂונא, דעם הונט,
איך טראָג דיך אַרױס באַלד פֿון פֿײַער
איך הײל דיר מיט קושן דײַן װוּנד.
און ביסטו געפֿאַלן אַ טױטער,
די אױגן די ליבע פֿאַרמאַכט,
איך װיקל דיך אײַן אין דער פֿאָן דער רױטער
און פֿאַל אין דער בלוטיקער שלאַכט.
Song Title: O, Liber, Mir Hobn Geshlosn
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.