The Anarchist Encyclopedia:
David Edelshtadt, (1866-1892)
American Yiddish anarchist & poet. His poems are still sung today.
Edelshtadt is considered part of the "sweatshop poets" (Morris Rosenfeld, Morris Winchevsky, Edelshtat, & Joseph Bovshover) whose most creative time were the 1890s & the 1900s.
They are in fact the first school of Yiddish poetry anywhere in the world. These four are linked in their poetry by a compassion for the working masses in the sweatshops of New York, & a desire for a revolutionary change in their conditions. These poets were themselves workers, slaving in horrible working conditions for twelve or more hours a day.
Only Winchevsky, who arrived to New York from London in 1894, was a Yiddish journalist & intellectual who sought to "enlighten" the Jewish workers. The other three poets wrote from experience in the world of the sweatshop; & in fact, Edelshtat died at the age of 25, of tuberculosis, contracted in the difficult labor conditions.
"How long, oh how long will you still remain slaves, & bear the disgraceful chain?"
These words, written a century ago, are the opening lines of David Edelshtat's Yiddish poem, "Wake Up."
The disgraceful chain is not the oppression of the workers — it is their self delusion that all will be well if only they keep accommodating their oppressors.
David Edelshtat, writer of several songs on the CD In Love And In Struggle: The Musical Legacy Of the Jewish Labor Bund, never made it in vaudeville or Broadway. He died after contracting tuberculosis from working 14 hours a day in a Lower East Side sweatshop. A vaudeville performer wouldn't come up with lyrics like:
"How long will you stand with your backs bent/Humiliated, homeless and weak?/It's daybreak, awake, open your eyes /Recognize your own iron strength."
("Vakht Oyf"/"Wake Up")
Biographical/historical note :
Born in Kaluga, Russia and educated in the Russian language and literature. He began publishing Russian poems at age 12. In 1882, he immigrates to America and first lives in New York where he becomes active in the developing anarchist movement. He begins to write his first poems in Yiddish and is chosen to become the editor of the main Yiddish anarchist paper, Di Freie Areibeter Stimme [The Free Voice of Labor] which he edits until shortly before his death. He suffered for a long time from tuberculosis and died in a Denver sanitorium at the age of 25. One of the earliest "labor" poets, he leaned toward the anarchist-revolutionary side of the movement. They often call for the workers to arise and fight. Many of his poems were turned into songs and are sung until today. One example is "Arbeter froyen" [Working women].
David Edelstadt (1866-1892)
[Edelstat] Bialostotsky, B.I., edited by. David Edelstat Gedenk-Buch tsum zechstikstn Yortsayt 1892-1952." NY, David Edelstat Komitetn, 1953. 8vo, red cloth over black cloth spine, 625 pp., b/w photos, index. Kropotkin 's Samelbuch gewidmet dem 2Sten Jarzeit zint dem Tot von P. A. Kropotkin (Kropotkin's Collection Dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of the Death of P. A. Kropotkin). Edited by J. Segal. Commentaries by Rudolf Rocker, S. Janovsky & E. Goldman. Buenos Aires, Die Gruppe David Edelstat, 1947, 390 pages, in Yiddish. Edelstadt, David, 1866-1892.Marsilieza = Marseillaise : o poema in proza / de David Edelstadt ;traducere de Joseph Ishileanu (Joseph Ishill).Berkeley Heights, N.J., U.S.A. : Oriole Press, 1961.  p. ; 19 cm. Edelstadt, David, 1866-1892. Shriften / Dovid Edelshtadt ; mit a forrede iber dos leben un shafen fun dem dikhter fun M. Katts. 2. oyfl. Works. Hebrew London [England] : Arbayter Fraynd, 1910. xxxviii, 405 p. : ports. ; 19 cm. Folks-gedikhte. [New York, 1907/08] ix, 213 p. 22 cm. Marmor, Kalmon. David Edelstadt. New York, YKUF Farlag, 1950. Octavo, orange-red cloth, 410 pp., chronological bibliography, index, b/w illustrations.
Eyder ikh leyg zikh shlofn / In kamf / Vakht Oyf! No sooner do I lie down to sleep / In struggle / Awake! (folksong / words: David Edelshtat / words: David Edelshtat) 4:54
Smaples of David Edelshtat put to music, see In Love and In Struggle: The Musical Legacy of the Jewish Labor Bund (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, YIVO CD 002, 1999)
Mayn Tsavoe My testament (words: David Edelshtat) 3:49
Eyder ikh leyg zikh shlofn / In kamf / Vakht Oyf! --No sooner do I lie down to sleep / In struggle / Awake! (folksong / words: David Edelshtat / words: David Edelshtat) 4:54
Mayn Tsavoe--My testament (words: David Edelshtat) 3:49
E62[Translations] "Poems of David Edelshtat." Jewish Life 4.9 (July 1950): 12-14. From the Yiddish. Kramer's biographical sketch of Edelshtat appears on pp. 12-13. Includes: "In Battle" (13), in DV with line 7 revised; "To My Brothers" (13); "From My Journal" (13), two concluding stanzas in DV, entire poem in CYP and M; "The Worker" (13-14); "Spring" (14), in DV; "The Wounded Eagle" (14), in M; and "The Last Will" (14), in CYP and DV as "My Testament." "In Battle," "The Worker," "The Last Will," and a condensed biographical sketch were reprinted in Canadian Jewish Weekly (11 January 1951): 2. Entire biographical sketch reprinted as "David Edelshtat-- A Biographical Essay, Reprinted from `Jewish Life,'" The Jewish Digest (Johannesburg, South Africa) October/November 1950: 53-54. In CYP.
"A time will come, when from our coffins
"Will rise a powerful voice,
"Stronger than that which you want now to choke,
"A thousand times stronger, more striking!"
These were the last words of Spies..."August Spies," by David Edelshtat (Oct 10, 1890; translated from Yiddish by Ori Kiritz) from, Kiritz, Ori. The Poetics of Anarchy: David Edelshtat's Revolutionary Poetry. Frankfurt: Lang, Europaischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1997.
Hangmen, what do you gain from this?
Did you annihilate the spiritual giant?
Did you extinguish the sun?
The Sweatshop Poets
The Daily Bleed, Oct 17, 1892
Page created 10/17/2001; updated December 2002
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