‘tell my father to dig me a grave’: two bride songs
Two works, two languages, the same story.
The first is recorded by the Chuvash writer Sepritun Yantush, from his book Chuvash Weddings from 1852. I found the excerpt in An Anthology of Chuvash Poetry, compiled by Gennady Aygi, who also translated the Chuvash works into Russian. The anthology was then translated into English by Peter France, so it’s come to me in a very roundabout way, but I don’t know how else I would have been exposed to Chuvash literature so it’s an absolute treasure.
Oh you, Yunga, place of my birth,
Where the cradle received me,
I shed tears as I bid you farewell!
A sad orphan have I become.
Farewell, land of my fathers,
Farewell, days of my youth!
I shall not stop loving you,
When I go off to foreign places.
My horse has not carried me all away:
Here I leave a part of my life,
Take it, take it for ever,
I make you a gift of my heart!
When I read those words it reminded me right away of a Moroccan Jewish wedding song that I had heard performed by Mor Karbasi. I discovered her music last year; this was the first song of hers I heard, and it’s still one of my favourites. The song has a rich history and many different lyrics exist; there’s a fascinating post about it here.
Here is a translation of the words Karbasi sings, taken from the lyrics that come with the CD:
Comb, Comb the bride’s hair
For she is going to her new home today
Tell my father
Ask of him
To build my house next to his
Oh gracious father
Why have you not said
My little girl is too young to be wed?
Gracious father has abandoned me
Because he gave me away and did not come to get me.
Tell my father to dig me a grave
his shoes will step over me
his tears will fall over me
why have you abandoned me on the mountaintops?