Rumshinsky’s Es tsit, es brit (It Tugs, It Burns), with lyrics by Isidore Lillian, was hailed by critics as the most memorable number in the 1929 production of Dos radio meydl (The Radio Girl)—a musical comedy in two acts with a prologue, to a book by Louis Freiman. The entire elaborate production was conceived as a vehicle for its star, Molly Picon (who wrote lyrics to some of its songs), and the show was first staged and directed by her husband, Yankl Kalich, at the Kessler Second Avenue Theater.
The story concerns Sadie, a sympathetic young waif of the New York streets who never knew her father. She is the only joy in the life of her suffering mother, and she models for an exclusive Fifth Avenue dress shop. But during her previous employment at a similar establishment owned by a wealthy banker, Oppenheim, she became infatuated with his son, Walter. As a confirmed bachelor, however, Walter never took notice of her.
Meanwhile, Walter, in defiance of the rules of his insular Bachelors Club, has become enamored of a radio entertainer, Viola, to the point of obsession—solely through her voice, without ever having seen her. When he shares this secret with fellow club members, the club’s president—despite the others’ denunciation of Walter for jeopardizing his bachelor status—offers to help, and he organizes a meeting between Viola and Walter.
It happens that Viola is Sadie’s cousin. Completely unaware of Sadie’s secret three-year passion for Walter, Viola tells her cousin with great relish of her impending introduction to the wealthy Walter Oppenheim, whom she already imagines as her “Prince Charming.” But on her way to meet Walter, Viola is injured in an automobile accident and is taken to hospital without Walter’s ever having seen her. That same evening, when Sadie conveniently learns of the derailment of her cousin’s rendezvous, she seizes the opportunity and presents herself at the appointed meeting place as Viola. Overcoming a slew of complications, she dupes Walter into believing that she is indeed the “radio girl” with whom he is already in love, and he marries her. Only then does he discover that she is actually the daughter of his friend, the former president of the Bachelors Club, and the reunion of father and daughter makes for a doubly “happy ending.”
It is unclear from available documents precisely where the song Es tsit, es brit occurs in the play. In terms of the lyrics, it could have been sung logically at any number of points—and perhaps more than once.
By: Neil W. Levin
Lyrics by Isidore Lillian
What is this? I must
figure it out already.
What am I thinking? What am I longing for?
Why am I getting hot and cold?
Why am I crying?
It feels like the world is about to end….
I want to shoot myself.
Who knows what’s happened to me?
It tugs, it scorches, it seethes, it burns
here, in my heart;
It gnaws, it flicks, it rips, it nips,
It leaves me without a moment’s peace.
I cannot sleep; I cannot eat,
O, it thumps and drains.
I cannot forget that face.
Something knotted itself up in me.
It pricks, it breaks, in short, it’s bad.
I think I’m in love!
Poets have written many sonnets
about love, why it makes one crazy, mad.
Vengeance and war it has already brought.
Love’s arrows can travel miles—
It is the greatest power.
Lyrics by Isidore Lillian
vos iz dos, ikh muz dos
shoyn oysgefinen bald.
vos denk ikh? vos benk ikh?
vos vert mir heys un kalt?
vos veyn ikh? ot meyn ikh
di velt vet untergeyn…
kh’vil mikh shisn. ver ken visn
vos mit mir iz geshen.
es tsit, es brit, es kokht, es brent
in hertsele ot a do!
es nogt, es plogt, es rayst, es bayst,
ikh hob nit keyn fraye sho!
ikh ken nit shlofn, ikh ken nit esn.
oy, es tyokhket un es tsapt.
Ikh ken dos ponem nit fargesn
epes hot zikh do farknipt.
es shtekht, es brekht, a klal s’iz shlekht,
dakht zikh ikh bin farlibt!
poetn, sonetn geshribn hobn fil
fun libe, di sibe, vos makht meshuge, dull.
nekomes, milkhomes hot dos shoyn gebrakht.
libes fayln treft far mayln—
s’iz di greste makht.
Composer: Joseph Rumshinsky
Genre: Yiddish Theater
Amy Goldstein, Soprano;
Elli Jaffe, Conductor;
Vienna Chamber Orchestra
Date Recorded: 10/01/2001
Venue: Baumgartner Casino (A), Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Hughes, Campbell
Assistant Engineer: Hamza, Andreas
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul
Arranger/Orchestrator: Patrick Russ
Yiddish Translations/Transliterations: Eliyahu Mishulovin & Adam J. Levitin
Arrangement © Milken Family Foundation