Mudcat Café message #72877 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #9070   Message #72877
Posted By: Charlie Baum
22-Apr-99 - 11:47 PM
Thread Name: Lyr/Tune Add: Vu Iz Dos Gesele
Subject: RE: Vu Iz Dus Gesele
Part aleph (one):

Well, at last already I got my hands on a Yiddish-English Verterbuch, and figured I could finally try to translate "Vu iz dos gesele." But I couldn't figure out some of the transliterated words, so in a rabbinical way, I tried to retransliterate the line that didn't make sense: something like:

Alain in dos Shtib, mein Veitik is groiz
Altz yitzt geblibn, a Churbn iz do Bloiz

Alone in the room, my pain is large,
All that now remains, a disaster that is dim

Churbn is one of those Yiddsh words with Hebrew roots, so a knowledge of German does you no good.

Where is the little street? Where is the room?
And where is the maiden for whom I have love?
Here is the little street, here is the room
Here is the maiden for whom I have love.

Where is the little brook? Where is the sea?
Where is the village? Where is the ship?
Here is the little brook. Here is the sea.
Here is the village. Here is the ship.

Around/alone in the room, my pain is large,
All that now remains, a disaster that is dim
No more the little street, no more the room
No more the maiden, for whom I have love.

I'm not sure if these are really the words; it's based on a fair amount of guesswork as to what the original Yiddish really is.

Part bais (two):

So I see this cassette tape, and it's a real bargain, and on it there are the Barry Sisters (nee Bagelman) singing Yiddish songs, including "Vi iz dus gesele." So I get the tape, and give it a listen, figuring at last, I'll have the real words to the song and I can translate it properly at last. Bad news and good news: The bad news is that they sing a different set of words that the ones reported above--but, hey, that's the folk process! The good news is that after singing two verses in Yiddish, they sing a verse in English. Who is responsible for the translation I don't know (the liner notes are less than minimal), and while it perhaps captures the spirit of the song, it is in no way an accurate translation of the Yiddish words, but the translation IS singable. (If you want to hear it yourself, the tape is The Barry Sisters Sing, D-5858, available from Tara Publications at And it turns out that there's a wonderful tune, in waltz rhythm; but from Sholom Secunda, I would have expected a great tune.

Being women, they sing the first verse more or less like our informants, but switch the genders: where is the young man for whom I have love?
Their second verse translates as:
Around in the room, my pain is great
Another maid sits on his lap
Around in the room, my pain is great
There is my young man, uncoupled already.

Then they sing their English verse:

Where is the village, the place of my youth?
Where is the boy who kissed me with a truth?
Where are the young hearts that sang unafraid?
Where are the visions and where have they strayed?
[then some Dai, Dai, Dai's and a coda:]
. . . All is but a memory.

--Sholom Mayer ben Chaim (a/k/a Charlie Baum)