UPDATE: Adding a 60-second Instagram video excerpt:
Click the album cover picture to hear (and if you like, buy) the song as I recorded it with Ken Bloom on guitar.
And as always, if you click "get the sheet music" I send the mp3 plus sheet music with chords, transliterated text, etc. for $2.50.
The postcard below, featuring the song, was on eBay a while back, with yet a third melody, under the Russian title: Колыбельная песня (пѣсня) / а вигъ лиделъ (viglidl, Little lullaby). Click for larger view.
Zhelonek used the generic title Viglid, cradle song, and there are hundreds of songs with this title, so this Yiddish lullaby is generally known by its first line, S'loyfn s'yogn shvartse volkns. It's a poem by Warsaw's Hersh Dovid Nomberg (1876–1927). A Yiddishist from Sweden told me he thought the poem was referring to I. L. Peretz, who spent a couple months in a work camp.
Here's a picture of the author and friends from the 1908 Czernowitz Conference, left to right: Avrom Reyzen, Yitskhok Leybush Peretz, Sholem Asch, Khayim Zhitlovski, Hersh Dovid Nomberg.)
You can find the song at savethemusic.com sung by Martha Schlamme (1923-1985), an absolutely wonderful soprano.
After I transcribed the tune, I found it in the Mloteks' "Pearls of Yiddish Song"; they note that the poem and this tune were published in "Ost und West" in 1908.
There is another interesting tune for this song performed by (and perhaps composed by) Israeli singer Aliza Azikri (born 1941).
Translation of the Yiddish lyrics:
Dark clouds run and rush, the wind whistles and blows. Your father sends you greetings from far away, my child. It's the wind that brings us greetings from that cold land. There he stands, he holds a shovel in his hand.
And he digs deeper and deeper, he throws the dirt out. Don’t worry – he’s digging graves for all lies. He falls on the field, neither the first nor the last. But don’t worry, my child, you were born to a great hero. And you’ll grow up to be a hero. Sleep, gather strength for the future, my only child.
It's interesting that Zhelonek replaces the location of the banished hero - Siberia - with the vague 'dervaytns' (far away).