frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,
frenchpony
frenchpony

  • Music:

T Minus Three Days

Usually, I think I'm a pretty hardhearted sort of a person. But today, I was transcribing the Yiddish lyrics of several ghetto ballads into Le Thesis, and I almost broke down. If you listen to enough songs of terror and tragedy, your mind goes kind of numb after a while, and the songs stop meaning anything in particular. But there is one song that always, always makes me cry. It's called "Motele from the Warsaw Ghetto," by Reuven Lipshitz. The singable English translation from Jerry Silverman's The Undying Flame is:

In the narrow streets throughout the ghetto,
Where the sunlight's hardly ever found,
On his body clothes all torn and tattered,
The old tailor's son does run around.
Early ev'ry morning, like a shadow,
With his pallid lips that show his dread,
Steals right through the barbed wire of the ghetto,
Looking for a little piece of bread.

Chorus: Motele, a charming youngster,
Motele does pass the test.
Motele is very lucky,
For our Motl is some kid, one of the best!

Jews are fighting back against barbarians,
Streams of blood the ghetto streets do trace.
Helping build the barricades is Motl,
Deathly pale with rage is his small face.
In the fire bright blue eyes are shining,
Thirst and hunger drying out his tongue.
His brave heart with horror it is beating:
For his people's sake he shoots his gun.

Motele, a charming youngster,
Motele does pass the test.
Motele is very lucky,
For our Motl is some kid, one of the best!

Dzhike, Fave, Mile, Niske, Genshe,
Tongues of fire blazing all around.
Cannons roar and all of Warsaw trembles,
Save us! We hear the helpless cry resound.
In the smoke of bombs and cannonades then,
Motl's name did float above the fray.
Died a hero on the barricades then --
He didn't live till his Bar-Mitzvah day.

Motele, a charming youngster,
Motele does pass the test.
Motele is very lucky,
For our Motl is some kid, one of the best!

Twelve years old. At the oldest. Twelve. That's how old Motl was. I think that's what gets me, every single time I read it or listen to the recording.

I can't wait for Le Thesis to be done. T minus three days. Almost there.
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