Six Lines

Aaron Zeitlin Translated from the Yiddish by Miranda Cooper
May 13, 2019
Jewish cemetery in Prague. Photo: Marketa via Flickr

AARON ZEITLIN (1899-1973), son of writer and editor Hillel Zeitlin, immigrated to New York City from Warsaw in 1939. He traveled at the invitation of Yiddish theatre director and actor Maurice Schwartz, who wanted to stage one of Zeitlin’s plays. This ultimately saved his life; his family members were killed in the Warsaw Ghetto. Zeitlin spent much of the rest of his prolific literary career writing poetry that wrestled with his secondhand survivorship, and with the meaning of being not just a Jew but a Yiddish writer living after the Holocaust.

Kh’veys: keyner darf mikh nisht af ot dem oylem (I know: No one needs me in this world), or as it later became known, Zeks shures (Six Lines), is from his collection Lider fun khurbn un lider fun gloybn (Poems of the Holocaust and Poems of Belief).

"Six Lines" has been translated from the Yiddish by Miranda Cooper


Six Lines

I know: No one needs me in this world,
Me: word-beggar in the Jewish cemetery.
Who needs a poem — and in Yiddish at that?

Only the hopeless things in the world are lovely,
And that which is ephemeral is all that is godly,
And only humility is revolt.

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זעקס שורותֿ

,כ׳װײס: קײנער דאַרף מיך נישט אױף אָט דעם עולם
.מיך, װערטער־בעטלער אױף דעם ײדישן בית־עולם
?װער דאַרף אַ ליד — און נאָך דערצו אױף ײדיש

,נאָר בלױז דאָס האָפֿנונגלאָזע אױף דער ערד איז שײן
,און געטלעך איז נאָר דאָס, װאָס מוז פֿאַרגײן
.און נאָר הכנעה איז מרידה׳ש

Aaron Zeitlin (18991973) was a prolific poet, playwright, essayist, and editor in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Miranda Cooper was a 2019 National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critic and is now an editor at In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies. Miranda’s work has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares, Alma, and others.