Featured Poem

Ballad of the Times

There’s a dead child lying in the road,
A little girl with blond hair.
Five or six weeks more maybe
She’d have reached her seventh year.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

The mother is standing in the road,
She wrings her white hands thin with grief.
She saw the town unpeopled
And flames come through her roof.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

And carts and wagons are dragging past
With bags and baggage and they must go
Wandering the roads who had
A house and home an hour ago.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

The village has and the town has
Lost all the people who lived there
Who now must ride or walk to know
What mercy God can spare.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

The mother is standing in the road
And there she will remain
For who’d leave lying in the road
Her sleeping child alone?
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

She sits, she wraps her dead child round
In her grey shawl until
Above the wood there’s an autumn moon
Like a big and silver medal.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

The Marshal sings: Little girl of mine
Your father is a blond bear.
Under his window the brown army
Tramp-tramp away to war.
Marashal Goering is playing with his child.

The mother sings: Little girl of mine
My gold, my crown, my everything
Your mother is a willow tree
By the roadside weeping.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

And over her dead child she bows
Grieving like a willow there
And the breeezes of September play
With her black unfastened hair.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

The Marshal sings: Little girl of mine
Your father is a field marshal,
The harvest moon that shines upon
His breast is a silver medal.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

The mother sings: Little girl of mine
My child, my daughter dead so soon
Your mother is an owl now
And tells the wind her pain.
Marshal Goering is playing with his child.

* * *

This is a song that I thought up
In London, in a hospital,
The song of the dead child in the road
And the fat field marshal
Who kills, and plays with his child.

London, 1940

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About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Poet:
Itzik Manger
Translator:
Helen Beer
Original language:
Yiddish
Issue:
Series 3 No. 4 - Between the Languages

Original poem

About the authors

Poet

Itzik Manger

Itzik Manger (1901-1969) was born in Czernowitz when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, later to become Romania. He w...

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Translator

Helen Beer

Helen Beer teaches Yiddish at University College London. She specialises in modern Yiddish literature.

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Ballad of the Times (Tsayt Balade)

in mitn veg a kind a toyts
a meydele mit blonde hor.
nokh finef vokhn oder zeks –
volt es gevorn zibn yor.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

di mame shteyt in mitn veg
un brekht die blaykhe dare hent,
zi hot gezen di shtot farvist,
zi hot gezen di heym farbrent.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

un furlekh shlepn zikh farbay
mit hak un pak oyf na-venad,
vogler zenen ale di,
vos hobn ersht a heym gehat.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

der poyer hot farlozt dos dorf,
der shtot-mentsh hot farlozt di shtot,
ver mit aks un ver tsu fus
vandert itst oyf gots barot.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

die mame shteyt in mitn veg
neyn un neyn, zi vet nisht geyn.
vi lozt men dos in mitn veg
dos shlofndike kind aleyn?
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

zi zetst zikh nebn toytn kind
farviklt in ir groen shal.
di harbst-levone ibern vald –
a groyser zilberner medal.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

der marshal zingt: ‘mayn tekhterl,
dayn tate iz a blonder ber’
un far zayn fenster trot bay trot
marshirt dos broyne militer.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

di mame zingt: ‘mayn tekhterl,
mayn gold, mayn kroyn un mayn farmeg,
dayn mame iz a verbe itst
vos troyert do in mitn veg.’
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

un vi a verbe roysht zi shtil
in troyer ibern toytn kind,
mit ire shvarts tselozte hor
shpilt zikh der september-vint.
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

der marshal zingt: ‘mayn tekhterl,
dayn tate iz a feld-marshal’
di harbst-levone oyf zayn brust
blitst – a zilberner medal.
der marshal gering sphilt zikh mit zayn kind.

di mame zingt: ‘mayn tekhterl,
mayn kind, mayn fri farloshn kind,
dayn mame iz a sove itst
vos klogt ir veytik farn vint.’
der marshal gering shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

* * *

dos dozike lid hob ikh fartrakht
in london in a hospital,
dos lid fun toytn kind in veg
un fun dem fetn feld-marshal,
vos toyt, un shpilt zikh mit zayn kind.

You can listen to this Ballad on Itzik Manger's web-site 


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