|Mark Markovich Warshavsky -- folk poet, was born in Zhitomir ca. 1845*,
died in Kiev in 1907. He graduated from the Kiev University and practiced
law in Kiev. In spare time Warshavsky liked to compose and sing Yiddish
songs. He wrote lyrics and music for these songs simultaneously. Assuming
that his songs have no artistic value, Warshavsky did not record them.
Later, following Sholom Aleychem’s advice, Warshavsky published his first
25-song collection “Judische Volkslieder” with Sholom Aleychem’s enthusiastic
preface. Music to these songs was published shortly thereafter. Warshavsky’s
book was a great success, many of his songs became very popular and were
regarded as folk songs (for example, “Der Alef-Beis”, “A Brif fun Amerike”,
“Der Zeide mit der Babe”). Warshavsky’s songs ingenuously and emotionally
embody the motifs of Jewish folk poetry, whose spirit the author grasped
so precisely. Warshavsky’s work is inseparably linked with the life of
his people, with all their sufferings and joys. People’s tears (“Tsum badekens
der Kale”), and sadness (“A Yidish Lid fun Ruminien”), pogroms (“Peisach”),
poverty (“Neben Klaisel”), and immigration (“A Brif fun Amerike”, “Di shif”)
find a response in Warshavsky’s songs. But these sad motifs are alleviated
by the presence of special spiritual courage. Jewish hero of Warshavsky’s
songs is an optimist. Suffering could not restrain their deep believe in
better future, suppress theirs joyous sense of life: “Suffer and sing”.
Warshavsky’s songs are warmed by touching love to the “Yidishe Gas” (Jewish
Street) with its simple way of life. Stuffy cheder, where Jewish children
study AlefBeis, Jewish wedding rituals (“Tsum badekens”), family anniversaries
(“Der Zeide mit der Babe”) - all this cherished and familiar to the author.
The language of the songs is simple and open-hearted. It is an authentic
dialect spoken in Volyn. The metre of the verses is not always sustained,
form is quite diverse, poem's structure and rhyme is folk and gentle. Melodies
are graceful, intimate and in full harmony with the text. Sincere melody
of the “A Brif fun Amerike” makes especially strong expression. Many Warshavsky’s
poems remain unpublished.
* in 1840, 1845, or 1848 according to different sources.
Adopted from the article by Noah Prilutsky (1882-1944), Yiddish linguist and folklorist, in Evreiskaia entsiklopediia. S.-Peterburg: Obshchestvo Dlia Nauchnykh Evreiskikh Izdanii, Brokhaus-Efron, 1906-13. Translated into the English by Shura Vaisman.