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Yiddish Folk Verse

Hava nagila Yiddish Folk Verse Mother language Semitic Poetry

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#1 OFFLINE   Tinker

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Posted November 09, 2010 - 07:37 AM

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Semitic Poetry

Yiddish Folk Verse expresses the joys and heartaches that come with being a Jew.. It is the only rhymed Semitic verse I have so far encountered, but this genre occurs centuries after the Torah and in a different region.

Yiddish which literally means Jewish, is a high German language originally spoken by Ashinazi Jews who settled in the Rhineland in the 10th century. Simplified, it is an adaptation of German and Hebrew. It was the secular language of intimate family relations and is called "mother language" as opposed to Hebrew which is called "holy language". The language spread over Europe into the various Jewish communities which transcended regional and national languages to add another link to bind members of a culture that shares a long and difficult history.

While Hebrew poetry focused on Biblical matter, Yiddish verse recorded the culture. Yiddish folk verse "flourished" in the 19th century celebrating a people who have been both blessed and cursed. In the 1940s the Holocaust became a central theme of Yiddish Verse but eventually with the emergence of a Jewish state in Isreal new subjects were explored. Humor and lament merge. From this history a stanzaic form emerged.

The Yiddish Folk Verse is:
  • stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains. Occasionally it is written in any number of sixains.
  • accentual, written with 4 stressed syllables per line and any number of unstressed syllables.
  • rhymed, traditionally xaxa xbxb etc x being unrhymed. Later rhyme became more variable, abab cdcd etc. When written in sixains the rhyme is aabccb ddeffe etc.
    Night Walk by Robin Skelton from Shapes of Our Singing
    Rain black on the night road
    under the yellow lamplight
    seems almost a kind of mirror
    offering us all foresight,

    a glimpse of the far dark future
    surrounding the shape-changing shadows
    we cast as we stroll, not thinking about
    the ways of inevitable tomorrows,

    though if we stop, look down, stare,
    something looks back at us;
    what nightwalker can bear to see
    his own eyes as ominous.
Although it doesn't follow the stanzaic frame described above, one of the best known Yiddish Folk Verses is Hava Nagila. It was written in 1915, it has been credited to both Moshe Nathanson and Abraham Idelsohn. Another spelling is "Havah Nagilah" (I originally found these lyrics when researching "Yiddish" verse, but I have since also found it under Hebrew Verse so the language is in question since I don't read either language. However if I apply Yiddish being a secular language, a language of the culture and Hebrew being the language of moral and religious subjects, I can only assume Hava Nagila is Yiddish.)

HAVA NAGILA (Original Hebrew Lyrics)

Háva nagíla, háva nagíla,
Háva nagíla, venismechá.
Háva nagíla, háva nagíla,
Háva nagíla, venismechá.

Háva neránena, háva neránena,----
Háva neránena, venismechá.
Háva neránena, háva neránena,
Háva neránena, venismechá.

Úru, úru, achím,
Úru, achím, belév saméach.
Úru, achím, belév saméach.
Úru, achím, belév saméach.
Úru, achím, belév saméach.
Úru, achím,
Úru, achím, belév saméach.
HAVA NAGILA (Literal English Translation)

Come let's dance, come let's dance,
Come let's dance, and be merry!
Come let's dance, come let's dance,
Come let's dance, and be merry!

Come let's whirl, come let's whirl,
Come let's whirl, and be merry!
Come let's whirl, come let's whirl,
Come let's whirl, and be merry!

Rise, rise, brothers!
Rise, brothers, with a glad heart.
Rise, brothers, with a glad heart.
Rise, brothers, with a glad heart.
Rise, brothers, with a glad heart.
Rise, brothers!
Rise, brothers, with a glad heart.


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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Hava nagila, Yiddish Folk Verse, Mother language, Semitic Poetry

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