Popular song written by Herman Yablokoff (1903-1981). In his memoirs Arum der velt mit yidish-teater (Around the World with the Yiddish Theatre), Yablokoff recounts the history and popularity of the song. In 1922, he witnessed the misery of lonely orphans who were struggling to survive. It reminded him of the German occupation of Grodno during World War I, when he as a child peddled cigarettes. When he came to the United States, he conducted a radio program on WEVD and, in 1932, introduced part of the song “Papirosn,” at the end of a program: “Listeners began to phone and write to the studio asking to hear the song again. . . and thus began its overwhelming success.” Yablokoff was invited to sing the song on other radio stations and thousands of copies of the song sheet were printed. The song became very popular in Europe as well. Part of the melody was incorporated into a song “Nemile” by Leib Neidus.

During the Holocaust, the words and music were adapted for two ghetto songs, one by Rikle Glezer: “Es iz geven a zumertog,/ Vi shtendik zunik-sheyn,/ Un di natur hot dan gehat/ In zikh azoy fil kheyn,/ Es hobn feygelekh gezungen,/ Freylekh zikh arumgeshprungen/ In geto hot men undz geheysn geyn.” (It was a summer day, sunny and lovely as usual, and nature revealed so much of its beauty. Birds sang and leaped merrily, and we were told to go into the ghetto.). The other ghetto song using this melody is “Di broyt-farkoyferin” (The woman bread vendor). Both songs were published by S. Kaczerginski in 1948. Godl Jacobson (Hallandale, Fla.) In Pearls, May 31, 1985, indicates that the melody was sung to a Russian song: “Po Kartotshnoy sisteme” (According to the ration card system). Professor Robert A. Rothstein (Amherst, Mass.), Pearls, August 28, 1987, cites a Bulgarian song with a very similar melody: “Az sim dosho khubevetsa” (I am Gosho, the handsome one). Also Sarah Benjamin sings, on a cassette produced by her grandson, a Russian song “U nas rossiya Matushki” with the same melody (Pearls, August 28, 1987).

Illustration of musical notes from the books


A cold night, misty, and darkness all around.
A boy stands sadly and looks around.
Only a wall protects him from the rain.
He holds a little basket in his hand and his eyes beg everyone silently.
I’ve no more strength left to walk the streets.
Hungry and ragged, wet from the rain, I drag around from dawn.
No one provides me any earnings, everyone laughs and makes me a butt of jokes.

Buy my cigarettes!
Dry ones, not wet from the rain.
Buy real cheap, buy and have pity on me.
Save me from hunger.

Buy these wonderful matches and you’ll delight an orphan.
Useless are my cries and my running around, no one wants to buy from me.
I must die like a dog.

My father lost his hands in the war.
My mother could not bear her troubles any longer and was driven to her grave at a young age.
I was left on this earth unhappy and alone like a stone.
I gather crumbs to eat in the old market.
A hard bench is my bed in the cold park.
And there’s also the police who beat me with their swords, the edges, my pleas or my cries are of no use.

I had a little sister, a beautiful child.
She dragged around with me a whole year.
When with her, it was easier for me; my hunger would become lighter when I looked upon her.
Suddenly she became weak and very sick, died in my arms on a street bench.
And when I lost her, I lost everything.
Let death come already for me too.

A kalte nakht, a nepldike, fintster umetum,
Shteyt a yingele fartroyert un kukt zikh arum,
Fun regn shitst im nor a vant,
A koshikl halt er in hant
Un zayne oygn betn yedn shtum:
— Ikh hob shoyn nit keyn koyekh
mer arumtsugeyn in gas,
Hungerik un opgerisn, fun dem regn nas,
Ikh shlep arum zikh fun baginen,
Keyner git nit tsu fardinen—
Ale lakhn, makhn fun mir shpas.

Kupitye, koyft zhe, koyft zhe papirosn,
Trukene fun regn nit fargosn,
Koyft zhe, bilik benemones,
Koyft un hot oyf mir rakhmones.
Ratevet fun hunger mikh atsind.

Kupitye, koyft zhe shvebelekh antikn,
Dermit vet ir a yoseml derkvikn,
Umzist mayn shrayen un mayn loyfn,
Keyner vil bay mir nit koyfn —
Oysgeyn vel ikh muzn vi a hunt.

Mayn tate in milkhome hot farloyrn
zayne hent,
Mayn mame hot di tsores mer oyshaltn
nit gekent.
Yung in keyver zi getribn,
Bin ikh oyf der velt farblibn
Umgliklekh un elnt vi a shteyn.
Breklekh klayb ikh oyf tsum esn oyf
dem altn mark,
A harte bank iz mayn geleger in
dem kaltn park.
Un dertsu di politsyantn
Shlogn mikh mit shverdn, kantn,
S’helft nit mayn betn, mayn geveyn.

Ikh hob gehat a shvesterl, a kind
fun der natur,
Mit mir tsuzamen zikh geshlept hot zi
a gantsn yor,
Mit ir geven iz mir fil gringer,
Laykhter vern flegt der hinger*
Ven ikh fleg a kuk ton nor oyf ir.
Mit a mol gevorn iz zi shvakh
un zeyer krank,
Oyf mayne hent geshtorbn iz zi,
oyf a gasnbank.
Un az ikh hob zi farloyrn
Hob ikh alts ongevoyrn,
Zol der toyt shoyn kumen oykh tsu mir.


אַ קאַלטע נאַכט, אַ נעפּלדיקע, פֿינצטער אומעטום,
שטײט אַ ייִנגעלע פֿאַרטרױערט און קוקט זיך אַרום,
פֿון רעגן שיצט אים נאָר אַ װאַנט,
אַ קאָשיקל האַלט ער אין האַנט
און זײַנע אױגן בעטן יעדן שטום:
— איך האָב שױן ניט קײן כּוח מער אַרומצוגײן אין גאַס,
הונגעריק און אָפּגעריסן, פֿון דעם רעגן נאַס,
איך שלעפּ אַרום זיך פֿון באַגינען,
קײנער גיט ניט צו פֿאַרדינען —
אַלע לאַכן, מאַכן פֿון מיר שפּאַס.

קופּיטיע, קױפֿט זשע, קױפֿט זשע פּאַפּיראָסן,
טרוקענע פֿון רעגן ניט פֿאַרגאָסן,
קױפֿט זשע, ביליק בנאמנות,
קױפֿט און האָט אױף מיר רחמנות.
ראַטעװעט פֿון הונגער מיך אַצינד.

קופּיטיע, קױפֿט זשע שװעבעלעך אַנטיקן,
דערמיט װעט איר אַ יתומל דערקװיקן,
אומזיסט מײַן שרײַען און מײַן לױפֿן,
קײנער װיל בײַ מיר ניט קױפֿן —
אױסגײן װעל איך מוזן װי אַ הונט.

מײַן טאַטע אין מלחמה האָט פֿאַרלױרן זײַנע הענט,
מײַן מאַמע האָט די צרות מער אױסהאַלטן ניט געקענט.
יונג אין קבֿר זי געטריבן,
בין איך אױף דער װעלט פֿאַרבליבן
אומגליקלעך און עלנט װי אַ שטײן.
ברעקלעך קלײַב איך אױף צו עסן אױף דעם אַלטן מאַרק,
אַ האַרטע באַנק איז מײַן געלעגער אין דעם קאַלטן פּאַרק.
און דערצו די פּאָליציאַנטן
שלאָגן מיך מיט שװערדן, קאַנטן,
ס’העלפֿט ניט מײַן בעטן, מײַן געװײן.

איך האָב געהאַט אַ שװעסטערל, אַ קינד פֿון דער נאַטור,
מיט מיר צוזאַמען זיך געשלעפּט האָט זי אַ גאַנצן יאָר,
מיט איר געװען איז מיר פֿיל גרינגער,
לײַכטער װערן פֿלעגט דער הינגער*
װען איך פֿלעג אַ קוק טאָן נאָר אױף איר.
מיט אַ מאָל געװאָרן איז זי שװאַך און זײער קראַנק,
אױף מײַנע הענט געשטאָרבן איז זי, אױף אַ גאַסנבאַנק.
און אַז איך האָב זי פֿאַרלױרן
האָב איך אַלץ שױן אָנגעװױרן.
זאָל דער טױט שױן קומען אױך צו מיר.

* הונגער

Song Title: Papirosn

Composer: Unknown
Composer’s Yiddish Name: Unknown
Lyricist: Herman Yablokoff
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: הערמאַן יאַבלאָקאָף
Time Period: Unspecified

This Song is Part of a Collection

Pearls of Yiddish Song Cover with Illustration of musicians playing instruments

Pearls of Yiddish Song

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.

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