Under the title “Shoyn nishto der nekhtn” (Yesterday is already gone), the song was published in 1917 by the Society for Jewish Folk Music in Petrograd as an anonymous folksong in an arrangement by M. Shalit which he dedicated to Chaim Zhitlovsky. in his 1938-39 collection, Mikhl Gelbart erroneously attributed the song to Zhitlovsky.
Dr. Isaac Fein (Baltimore, Md.) in Pearls, February 15, 1976, shows the similarity to a Hebrew verse by Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horovets (1570-1628) which begins “Haover — Kholaf” (The past is over). In Pearls, June 6, 1976, Chaim Leib Fuks (Miami Beach, Fla.) cites a longer Yiddish song by Rabbi Isaac of Vorke that contains the two verses. Also Jacob Gorelik, (Bronx, N.Y.) brings a Ukrainian parallel: “Vipyem, kum, vipyem tut” (Let’s drink friends, let’s drink here). The melody is sung to the song “Nye zhuritsi khloptsi” in the Seyfer hanigunim of the Lubavitcher Hassidim.
Folklorist S. Kaczerginski provides an additional stanza in a manuscript which he sent the compilers before his death in 1954: “Hulyet, hulyet, brider, varft mit berd un poles:/ Ot azoy, ot azoy tantst a yid in goles” (Be merry, brothers, let your beards and coats fly: this is how a Jew dances in the Diaspora).
Yesterday is gone,
And tomorrow is not here yet.
There is only a little bit of today;
Don’t disturb it with worry.
Grab a drink as long as you’re alive,
In the world to come, you won’t get any.
S’iz nito keyn nekhtn,
S’nokh nito der morgn;
S’iz nokh do a bisele haynt,
Shtert im nit mit zorgn.
Khapt arayn a shnepsl,
Kol-zman ir zent baym lebn;
Im irtse hashem oyf yener velt
Vet men aykh nisht gebn.
ס’איז ניטאָ. קײן נעכטן,
ס’נאָך ניטאָ דער מאָרגן;
ס’איז נאָך דאָ אַ ביסעלע הײַנט,
שטערט אים ניט מיט זאָרגן.
כאַפּט אַרײַן אַ שנעפּסל,
כּל־זמן איר זענט בײַם לעבן;
אם־ירצה־השם אױף יענער װעלט
װעט מען אײַך נישט געבן.
Song Title: S’iz Nito Keyn Nekhtn
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.