Satiric words by A. Litvin, pen name of S. Hurvits (1882-1943), which he adapted from the Russian poem “Kalistratushka” (Kallstrat [a name]) by N. Nekrasov. Melodic variants published in 1919 by Y. Glatshteyn in Warsaw and Simon Katz (in sheet music) by Carl Fisher, N.Y. Similar melodies to the one presented here were published in 1924 by S. P. Schack — E.S. Cohen, and in sheet music, in the arrangement of Ch. Kotylansky and H. A. Russotto, by Jos. P. Katz, N.Y.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


“You will be a rich man, my Zhamele,”
my momma used to sing at my cradle
every night, back then, my momma.
I remember her melody to this day.

And it came true for me
my momma’s promise, —
Who has seen a man as rich as me,
a treasure such as I, Zhamele, have?

I sleep in a little basket,
make a blessing over a crust of bread,
and drink a toast with a broken pot
filled with clear well water.

And my children and my wife
are finely decked out;
in leggings and undershirts,
tied at the waist with a string.

Du vest zayn a gvir, mayn Zhamele,
Flegt mir zingen bay mayn vigele
Ale nakht a mol mayn mamele,
Ikh gedenk nokh haynt ir nigele.

Un mekuyem iz gevorn mir
Di havtokhe fun mayn mamele, —
Ver hot nokh gezen aza gevir,
Aza oysher vi ikh, Zhamele?

Shlofn shlof ikh oyf a kerbele,
Makh a moytse oyf a skorinke,
Un lekhayim oyf a sherbele,
Ful mit brunem-vaser klorinke.

Un di kinder un dos vaybele
Zaynen oysgeputst antikele;
Durkh in onetshkes dos laybele,
Un fargartlt mit a shtrikele.

דו װעסט זײַן אַ גבֿיר, מײַן זשאַמעלע,
פֿלעגט מיר זינגען בײַ מײַן װיגעלע
אַלע נאַכט אַ מאָל מײַן מאַמעלע,
איך געדענק נאָך הײַנט איר ניגעלע.

און מקוים איז געװאָרן מיר
די הבֿטחה פֿון מײַן מאַמעלע, —
שװער צו געפֿונען אַזאַ גרױסן גבֿיר,
אַזאַ עושר װי איך זשאַמעלע?

שלאָפֿן שלאָף איך אױף אַ קערבעלע,
מאַך אַ מוציא אױף אַ סקאָרינקע,
און לחײם אױף אַ שערבעלע,
פֿול מיט ברונעם־װאַסער קלאָרינקע.

און די קינדער און דאָס װײַבעלע
זײַנען אױסגעפּוצט אַנטיקעלע.
דורך אין אָנעטשקעס דאָס לײַבעלע,
און פֿאַרגאַרטלט מיט אַ שטריקעלע.

Song Title: Zhamele

Composer: Unknown
Composer’s Yiddish Name: Unknown
Lyricist: A. Litvin
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: אַ. ליטװין
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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