This klezmer song shares the first bars with the Italian song of freedom "Bella ciao".

The Yiddish text at the top of the page comes from the original score. A more standard Yiddish text can be found in the notes.

Notes

Here are the transliterated lyrics as set by Stanley Levine along with the notes he added about both the transcription and the translation:

Gute fraynt, ken ikh bay aykh poyln
Ir zolt mikh hern zingen dos shtikele fun koyln
Vayl mayn vayb shteyt af dem "stoop" un shrayt tsu mir arop
Vi nemt zi a zekele mit koyln.

Chorus:
Vayl koyln iz a fargenign
Ver es hot nur ongegreyt
Koyln iz zeyer shver tsu krign
Men darf shteyn in der "line" gants shpet.

Mayn fraynt Harry mit der langer Mary
Zey zingen dem duet fun der "Tiperary"
Zi shrayt gevald, zi hot shoyn bald a "cold"
Vi nemt zi a zekele mit koyln.

(Chorus)

Mayn fraynt Motke hot di tshakhotke
Af dem frost zet men im a naketn, a hoyln
Er shrayt gevald, er vert farfroyrn bald
Vi nemt er a zekele mit koyln.

1) I use quotation marks to indicate words which are in English in the original.
2) I believe that this text was probably transcribed by ear by someone not completely fluent in Yiddish, in any event by someone unfamiliar with how to transcribe Yiddish words into the Latin alphabet. I have thus tried to guess at what would actually have been spoken in the recording, then transcribed it into the standard "Yivo" transliteration.
3) In the last stanza where I wrote "bare to the bone" the literal translation is "a naked, nude person" – the meaning is similar to the expression "without a shirt on his back".
4) "Er shrayt gevald" means someone is shrieking in protest at a shocking injustice or acute suffering or the like. It does not mean asking for help; that may be the ultimate intention of the protest, but more often it is addressed to heaven or fate or oneself rather than to any passerby.
5) "Zekele" is the diminutive of "zak" (bag). However, one should imagine a bag such as one would put two or three tomatoes in. It uses the diminutive to differentiate this bag with just enough coal for a few hours of heat from the more common 50+ pound bag of coal.

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You can see the original score at The Library of Congress.

Comments

This song was copyrighted in 1919 by Reuben Shapiro (arranger) and Abe Schwartz (lyricist).

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Stan (Shimke) Levine for helping with the translation and commenting on the song. Translation by Monique Palomares and Stan Levine.

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