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Saturday, January 4, 2014

More on "S'iz geven a mol a pastekhl" (There once was a shepherd)

After I wrote the previous post about this half-Yiddish half-Ukrainian folk song (these hybrid songs are called macaronic) I got more information from a couple sources.

First, here's the song again in case you missed it. Cantor Mordechai Hershman (also Mordechay or Mordkhe, also Herschman or Hershmann) is such an amazing tenor:



He conflates the second and third verse, and that is the way the song appears in the Itzik Zhelonek collection; here's the English translation by me and Professor Feinberg:

Once there was a little shepherd
His one and only little lamb was lost
He walked, he saw a wagon with little stones in it
He thought the stones were the bones of his lamb

He said: My Lord, My Lord, My Lord!
Have you seen anything? Have you seen my lamb?
And the peasant replied: No!
Ah, poor me, I haven't found anything
How can I go home?

He walked on, he saw a wagon full of thorns
He thought the thorns were his lamb's horns
He walked, he saw a few nuts
He thought the nuts were his lamb's little feet

He said: My Lord, My Lord, My Lord!
Have you seen anything? Have you seen my lamb?
And the peasant replied: No!
Ah, poor me, I haven't found anything
How can I go home?

Here's what Batya Fonda had to say:




Batya wrote me:
This is a folksong about a shepherd who falls asleep and loses his sheep. He calls for help, but nobody answers. He keeps imagining that his sheep are found, but these are images only. This song was probably not originally Jewish in nature: it is a song of intense disappointment and despondency, one which would be relevant in any culture. However, the shepherd in the song is reminiscent of the Jews' own shepherd, "ro'eh ne'eman", Moshe Rabenu, and, by extension, God ("Adoni" - my Lord), and has thus been adopted into the cantorial cannon. The image of God having lost his sheep resonates deeply with the fate of the Jews in the Holocaust.

She pointed out that the song had been discussed on the Yiddish Song of the Week website

Dmitri Zisl Slepovitch wrote: "To me it is, or a midrash in sound, a regional folk narrative of the biblical David."

I'm still interested in other opinions about it. Write me.

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