Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Y. Fried

In 1889 in Petersburg, his play, "Di yidishe glikn," was published, a tragedy in five acts and six scenes, with three songs, a story that happens in one Yiddish city in Lita, composed by Y. Fried.

The play is written in German, with songs in Yiddish and Hebrew, as is the introduction.

Rabbi Katzin (Y.Kh. Rawnitzki] writes about the play:

“If you have the desire to know how such a piece is written, I’ll reveal the secret to you. It’s quite simple: chew-spew [i.e. grind it out]. You need to follow just one rule: that the key matter in this sort of poetry is only the rhyme. Beyond that, as God chooses. The rest is entirely a side-matter of secondary importance. Where does one get rhymes? Y’see, that’s a minor worry. Y’ just have to come up with a bright idea, a wrinkle where it’s needed. For example, you need to write ‘I have a thought,’ so you see that the next line must end in ‘caught,’ or ‘bought.’ If not, then switch the word-order: ‘A thought I have’ and come up with a rhyme: ‘salve,’ or ‘calve;’ or, again, ‘Have a thought I’ and match it with ‘spy’ or ‘cry’…Our poet knows this magic and published a rhyme-dependent work of chew-spew poetry which he declared to the world to be — tragedy.

“If you would wish to approach this booklet and judge it on the scale that applies to true tragedies, if you would care to seek here types, characters, not of paper dolls but of heroes who wrestle, struggle with each other, deep in whose hearts is waged internal war, various feelings, a tragedy whose every appearance, every monologue, even every word says something of import rather than superfluous sermons, but everything in its place as it is meant to be, it will be as though you’re searching through the picture-postcards that are sold by the dozens at the market, the art of drawing…Therefore, I will use only a few words to describe the content of this tragedy (Ravnitsky summarizes the contents). …The story is quite tragic, very, very sad…that people who have potatoes for heads, whose good sense climbs back on stair treads, people who — even he who spells Noah with seven errors is a profound scholar by comparison — take to the pen out of thin air and scribble out booklets and hand them to ordinary folk who, sadly, know not what to make of them.

“Oy, oy! Oy! Woe be unto them, uh —

The sort of  ‘composers’ we have in Russia!”

  • Zalmen Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vilna, 1929, p. 167.

  • Rabbi Katzin [Y.Kh. Ravnitsky] -- "Yudishe folks-bibliotek," Kiev, 1889, pp. 297-300.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5115.

English translation courtesy of Hershl Hartman and Steven Lasky.

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