Ragtime

Professor Jonathan Boyarin, Director of Jewish Studies at Cornell University, speaks these lyrics from Ragtime by McNally, Flaherty, and Ahrens. The lyrics are from a 1915 song called Lebn Zol Kolumbus (Long Live Columbus!). Paul Meier, IDEA’s founder and director, recorded Professor Boyarin. Meier, a dialect coach for stage and screen, is the author of A Yiddish Accent.


A shtetl iz Amerike, A mekhaye khlebn

America is a shtetl where, I swear, life is great.

Es rut oyf ir di shkhinele, Mir zoln azoy lebn

The Divine rests on her; we should all get to live so.

Milkhomes, biksn, mentshnblut Darfn mir oyf tsores,

Wars, guns, or bloodshed we need like a hole in the head.

A gubernator darf men nit, A keyser oyf kapores.

Who needs an [imperial] ruler? The hell with kings.

 

 

You may find the song’s complete lyrics below and at this link.

 

LEBN ZOL KOLUMBUS
Lyrics by Boris Thomashevsky

a shtetl iz amerike
a mekhaye khlebn.
es rut af ir di shkhinele;
mir zoln azoy lebn.
milkhomes, biksn, mentshnblut
darfn mir af tsores.
a gubernator darf men nit,
a keyser af kapores.

ay, s’iz gut,
zingt zhe ale mit:
lebn zol kolumbus,
trinkt briderlekh lekhaim!
o lebn zol kolumbus
far dem land dem nayem!
zayt tsufridn,
gleybt nit in di trombes.
shrayt zhe yidn:
lebn zol kolumbus!

far meydlekh iz ameritshke
a glik, nor a ganeyden,
vayl boyz iz do kekhol hayam,
a tayneg, oy a lebn.
un keyn nadn darf men nit,
shatkhonim af kapores.
un az a trombonik vil gelt,
krigt er a moyd mit tsores.
ay s’iz gut,
zingt zhe meydlekh mit:

lebn zol kolumbus!…

LEBN ZOL KOLUMBUS

Lyrics by Boris Thomashevsky

America is a shtetl
Where, I swear, life is great.
The Divine rests on her;
we should all get to live so.
Wars, guns, or bloodshed
we need like a hole in the head.
Who needs an [imperial] ruler?
The hell with kings.

Ay, it’s great,
everyone sing along:
Long live Columbus!
Brothers, drink a toast to life—l’ḥayyim!
Oh, long live Columbus
for discovering this new land!
Be merry!
Pay no heed to the grumblers.
Jews, shout:
Long live Columbus!

For girls, America
is a great place, a paradise,
for boys here are plentiful like the sands of the sea,
a pleasure, Oh, what a life.
You don’t need a dowry,
The hell with matchmakers.
And if a chump wants to marry for money,
he’s liable to wind up with a wife no one else would marry.
Oh, it’s good,
girls sing along:

Long live Columbus!…