Vos Geven Iz Geven Un Nito

What Was — Was — and is No More
װאָס געװען איז געװען און ניטאָ

Submitted “Memories of Days Gone By,” words and music by David Meyerowitz (1867-1943). Published in sheet music by J. & J. Kammen, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1043. Sung by such well-known actors and singers Aaron Lebedeff and Sophie Tucker.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


Permit me to unburden my heart.
Whether I talk sense or whether I talk from sadness,
I suffer from a disease that is not called an illness.
They call it old age.
It gnaws and it yearns.

What was — was — and is no more.
That year, that hour is already gone.
How quickly youthful happiness flees and you can’t catch it again.

Because what was — was — and is no more.
Your strength becomes weak, your hair gray.
You sew and dress yourself and you make yourself pretty.
But you don’t fool anyone, only yourself, because what was — was — and is no more.

When by chance I go by a school,
I shed tears and think about the past
And how the young mind doesn’t understand its happiness,
And when we come to our senses it’s already too late.

Derloybt lozt zikh dinen,
Oysredn mayn harts,
Tsi red ikh fun zinen,
Tsi red ikh fun shmarts,
Ikh layd fun a krankayt,
Vos heyst nit keyn krenk,
Men ruft es on elter,
Es nogt un es benkt:

Vos geven iz geven un nito,
Shoyn avek yene yor, yene sho,
Vi shnel farflit der yunger glik,
Un men ken es nit khapn mer tsurik.
Vayl vos geven iz geven un nito.
Di kreftn vern shvakh,
Di hor vert gro —
Men neyt zikh
Men kleydt zikh
Men makht zikh sheyn —
Men nart ober. keynem
Nor zikh aleyn, vayl —
— Vos geven iz geven un nito.

Ven ikh gey umgern a mol farbay a skul,
Gis ikh mit trern
Un trakht fun amol,
Vi der yungitshker moykhl
Zayn glik nit farshteyt
Un kumt men tsum seykhl
Iz dan shoyn tsu shpet.

דערלױבט לאָזט זיך דינען,
אױפֿרעדן מײַן האַרץ,
צי רעד איך פֿון זינען,
צי רעד איך פֿון שמאַרץ,
איך לײַד פֿון אַ קראַנקײט,
װאָס הײסט ניט קײן קרענק,
מען רופֿט עס אָן עלטער,
עס נאָגט און עס בענקט:

װאָס געװען איז געװען און ניטאָ,
שױן אַװעק יענע יאָר, יענע שעה,
װי שנעל פֿאַרפֿליט דער יונגער גליק,
און מען קען עס ניט כאַפּן מער צוריק,
װײַל װאָס געװען איז געװען און ניטאָ.
די קרעפֿטן װערן שװאַך,
די האָר װערט גראָ, —
מען נײט זיך,
מען קלײדט זיך,
מען מאַכט זיך שײן —
מען נאַרט אָבער קײנעם
נאָר זיך אַלײן, װײַל —
װאָס געװען איז געװען און ניטאָ.

װען איך גײ אומגערן אַ מאָל פֿאַרבײַ אַ סקול,
גיס איך מיט טרערן,
און טראַכט פֿון אַמאָל,
װי דער יונגיטשקער מוחל
זײַן גליק ניט פֿאַרשטײט
און קומט מען צום שׂכל
איז דאַן שױן צו שפּעט.

Song Title: Vos Geven Iz Geven Un Nito

Composer: David Meyerowitz
Composer’s Yiddish Name: דוד מײעראָװיץ
Lyricist: David Meyerowitz
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: דוד מײעראָװיץ
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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