Candles of Song 1 of 2

June 12, 2012 by

Candles of Song: "From My Slender Limbs" and "If.." by Rashel Veprinski

Yiddish poems about mothers, in memory of my mother, Miriam Pearlman Zucker, 1914-2012.

Photo of Rashel Veprinski

Rashel Veprinski (1896-1981) was born in the town of Ivankov, not far from Kiev, in Ukraine. She came to New York in 1907, and at thirteen she went to work in a shop. At fifteen, she began writing poetry, and was first published in 1918 in the journal Di naye velt (The New World). She wrote several books of poetry, among them Ruf fun foygl (The Call of the bird), 1926, Di Palitre (The palette), 1964, Tsum eyntsikn shtern (To the single star), 1971 as well as an autobiographical novel, short stories, and articles and was published regularly in Yiddish periodicals. From the 1920s until his death in 1953, she lived with the famous Yiddish writer Mani Leyb.

Here, Fun Mayne Shlanke Glider, by Rashel Veprinski, read by Sheva Zucker:

From My Slender Limbs

From my slender limbs cry children  yet unborn
Who want, through my flesh, to glimpse the white  world
And blossom forth under the sun
With curly heads,
Little eyes wide with wonder,
Blue and black.
But deep  within me I say no to those pure little voices
With a thousand voices
Out of a  frenzied striving
To stay always, always
So girlishly supple,
Free for the lilt, for the whimsy,
And for your loving arms.

So let my nights and days
Here be more hastily squandered
So that there where you  wait, –
Beyond white gates, –
I may come, still young, to you,
And I will take you, my children,
Quietly under my mother-wings
And cry over something, together with you.
Di palitre (The palette), Israel, 1964

Tr. Sheva Zucker
For Generations: Jewish Motherhood
Edited by Mandy Ross and Ronne Randall, Five Leaves Publications in association with European Jewish Publication Society, 2005

Fun Mayne Shlanke Glider

Fun mayne shlanke glider veynen kinder nit geboyrene,
Vos viln durkh mayn layb di vayse velt derzen
Un ufblien unter der zun
Mit kepelekh gekroyzlte,
Eygelekh breyt-farvunderte,
Shvartsinke un bloy.
Nor tif in zikh farneyn ikh yene klore shtiimelekh
Mit toyznt shtimen
Fun a fiberishn drang,
Tsu blaybn eybik, eybik,
Azoy meydlsh-beygik,
Fray far shvung, kapriz, – –
Un far dayne libndike hent –

To zoln mayne nekht un teg
Do vern hastiker farshvendt,
Az dortn vu ir vart, –
Ahinter vayse toyern, –
Kumen zol ikh yung tsu aykh.
Ikh vel aykh
Shtil tsuzamennemen unter mayne mame-fligl
Un af epes veynen glaykh mit aykh.
Di palitre, 1964

פֿון מײַנע שלאַנקע גלידער

פֿון מײַנע שלאַנקע גלידער וויינען קינדער ניט געבוירענע
וואָס ווילן דורך מײַן לײַב די ווײַסע וועלט דערזען
און אויפֿבליִען אונטער דער זון
מיט קעפּעלעך געקרויזלטע,
אייגעלעך ברייט־פֿאַרוווּנדערטע,
שוואַרצינקע און בלוי.
נאָר טיף אין זיך פֿאַרניין איך יענע קלאָרע שטימעלעך
מיט טויזנט שטימען
פֿון אַ פֿיבערישן דראַנג,
צו בלײַבן אייביק, אייביק,
אַזוי מיידלש בייגיק,
פֿרײַ פֿאַר שוווּנג, קאַפּריז, -—
און פֿאַר דײַנע ליבנדיקע הענט.

טאָ זאָלן מײַנע נעכט און טעג
דאָ װערן האַסטיקער פֿאַרשװענדט,
אַז דאָרטן װוּ איר װאַרט, —
אַהינטער װײַסע טױערן, —
קומען זאָל איך יונג צו אײַך.
איך װעל אײַך
שטיל צוזאַמעננעמען אונטער מײַנע מאַמע־פֿליגל
און אױף עפּעס װײנען גלײַך מיט אײַך.
      די פּאַליטרע, תּל־אָבֿיבֿ, 1964

Here, Ven…, by Rashel Veprinski, read by Sheva Zucker:


If I were to bear children
Every year a child, until I had ten
How wonderful it would be then.
By day I would nurse them and rock them in their cradle,
At night I would knit them  undervests of wool,
And wash their little shirts and diapers,
At daybreak, when everyone was still asleep
I would hang them out on the line
And would stand for a while
Looking at the sky above,
To see if it was going to rain today,
And secretly my heart would delight
In the rustle of the wind
Unfurling the little shirts and diapers
Like the flags on  a sailboat, –
Like the flags on my sailboat –
How wonderful it would be then.
Di palitre (The palette), Israel, 1964

Tr. Sheva Zucker
For Generations: Jewish Motherhood


Ven ikh zol kinderlekh geboyrn,
Yedn yor a kind, biz ikh vel hobn tsen–
Vi vunderlekh dos volt geven.
Ikh volt zey durkh di teg, ayngezoygn, ayngevigt,
In ovnt volt ikh laybelekh fun vol far zey geshtrikt,
Hemdelekh un vindelekh volt ikh gevashn,
Far tog, ven ale shlofn,
Volt ikh zey tsehongen af di shtrik
Un volt a vaylinke geshtanen,
Gekukt in hoykhn himl
Tsi s’vet haynt regenen,
Un s’volt mayn harts bahaltn ongekvoln
Fun dem shirkh-shorkh vos der vint makht
Ufblozndik di hemdelekh un vindelekh
Vi di fonen fun a zeglshif, –
Di fonen fun mayn zeglshif –
Vi vunderlekh dos volt geven.
Di palitre, 1964


װען איך זאָל קינדערלעך געבױרן,
יעדן יאָר אַ קינד, ביז איך װעל האָבן צען –
װי װוּנדערלעך דאָס װאָלט געװען.
איך װאָלט זײ דורך די טעג, אײַנגעזױגן, אײַנגעװיגט,
אין אָװנט װאָלט איך לײַבעלעך פֿון װאָל פֿאַר זײ געשטריקט,
העמדעלעך און װינדעלעך װאָלט איך געװאַשן,
פֿאַר טאָג, װען אַלע שלאָפֿן,
װאָלט איך זײ צעהאָנגען אױף די שטריק
און װאָלט אַ װײַלינקע געשטאַנען,
געקוקט אין הױכן הימל
צי ס’װעט הײַנט רעגענען,
און ס’װאָלט מײַן האַרץ באַהאַלטן אָנגעקװאָלן
פֿון דעם שירך־שאָרך װאָס דער װינט מאַכט
אויפֿבלאָזנדיק די העמדעלעך און װינדעלעך
װי די פֿאָנען פֿון אַ זעגלשיף, —
די פֿאָנען פֿון מײַן זעגלשיף —
װי װוּנדערלעך דאָס װאָלט געװען.
‏           די פּאַליטרע, תּל־אָבֿיבֿ, 1964

Poems cross-posted with

Dr. Sheva Zucker is currently the Executive Director of the League for Yiddish and the editor of its magazine Afn Shvel. She has taught and lectured on Yiddish language, literature and culture on five continents.