Mameloshn: “Bronx” by Yisroel Yankev Shvarts
Selected and translated by Barnett Zumoff
This is the fourth of a series of geographically themed Yiddish poems that have been posted here. Barnett Zumoff conducts the “Mameloshn” column that appears in each issue of Jewish Currents. “Bronx” is translated from the Yiddish as it appears in Emanuel Goldsmith’s Yiddish Literature in America, 1870-2000, Volume 2.
Yisroel Yankev Shvarts (1885-1971) was a poet who was closely associated with Di Yunge, He was particularly interested in translating modern and medieval Hebrew poets into Yiddish; his translation of the poetry of Khayim Nakhman Bialik is a classic. Shvarts’ poems Blue Grass and Kentucky were radical departures from the New York-centricity of almost all the American Yiddish poets of his time.
After all the incarnations of time and years,
after all the wandering in the great, wide world,
I’ve tumbled back into the Bronx,
for me still the most beautiful corner,
at the top of the giant city of New York.
The Bronx, with its parks and streams –
grassy, full of flowers, with shade-trees,
with cracks in the rocky granite
through which paths have been cut,
spraying sharp sparks.
My youth flutters here in the streets –
I haven’t aged. My eyes look far upward
to refresh themselves with the full freshness
and light of youthful days; my arms are open
to embrace everything around. There was a street here
called Wendover, between the two parks,
Claremont and Crotona — a nest of dreamers
and young visionaries, each one
with his own light and radiance,
in love, enthralled by word and song.
O light of youthful days and moonlit nights
in the hilly Crotona Park of those days –
with the fluttering of girlish eyes
in youthful faces, the faces
of near and dear ones, who lie long since
in the fields of Long Island and New Jersey.
And me, the last, the hand of Fate
has brought back to old Bronx –
where I began — to end there.
Nokh ale gilgulim fun tsayt un yorn,
nokh ale vandernishn in der breyter velt –
bin ikh tsurik in Bronks arayngefaln;
far mir nokh alts der shenster vinkl,
tsukopns fun der riznshtot Nyu-York.
Di Bronks, mit ire parkn, vasern–
fargrozt, farblumt, mit shotndike beymer,
mit durkhbrokhn in feldzikn granit,
durkh velkhe s’zaynen durkhgeshnitn vegn,
vos shpritsn op mit sharfe blitsn-funken.
Mayn yugnt flastert um do in di gasn—
zikh nit geeltert. Oygn oyfgerisn vayt
zikh ontsuzaftn mit der fuler frishkeyt
un likht fun yunge teg; di orems ofn
arumtsunemen alts arum. Geven a gas do—
Vendrover baym nomen, tsvishn di tsvey parkn
Klermont un Krotona—nest fun troymer
un yunge vizyonern; yeder eyner
mit zayn bazunder likht un shtralikeyt,
farlibt, gefangen funem vort un lid.
O, likht fun yunge teg un di levone-nekht
in demoltikn Klermont Park dem bargikn—
mit oyftsiter fun oygn meydlshe
oyf yunge penimer, di penimer
fun noente, tayere, vos lign lang shoyn
oyf felder fun Long-Ayland un Nyu-Dzhoyrzi.
Un mikh, dem letstn, hot di hant fun goyrl
tsurikgebrakht do in der alter Bronks—
vu ungehoybn—dort tsu endikn.