The Arty Semite

Dreams and Disillusion: 'Mayn Rue-Platz' by Morris Rosenfeld

By Michael Imlah

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Something happens to the human psyche when an event reaches the 100 year mark, as is the case this month with the Triangle Factory Fire. It’s as if it can finally be relegated to the “dust bin of history” or tales of “long, long, ago.” But we can choose to remember, and we can read the work of poets determined to enshrine the daily life of people in verse. One poem, “Mayn Rue-Platz” by Morris Rosenfeld, captures the dismal world of the modern industrial worker, and continues to remind us of the dark conditions met by America’s new immigrants.

Rosenfeld, one of the “Sweat Shop Poets,” wrote of the disturbing nature of the garment industry, where he himself had worked for years. “Mayn Rue-Platz” contrasts natural beauty and pleasure with the realities found in American industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Each step begins with the hoped for American experience but ends with the inevitable and oppressive realities of the industrialized world.

The forlorn nature of the poem suggests a single voice speaking to a dear friend or love, perhaps one yet to arrive in America or about to disembark at Ellis Island. The narrator reminisces about the splendor of their shared dreams and contrasts them with the realities the listener is bound to find. While dreaming of the simple pleasures of youth, springtime greenery, and singing birds, the reader is shocked by the simple truth, “you will not find me there.”


Mayn Rue Platz

Don’t look for me where myrtles are green.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where lives wither at the machines,
There is my resting place.

Don’t look for me where birds sing.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
I am a slave where chains ring,
There is my resting place.

Don’t look for me where fountains spray.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where tears flow and teeth gnash,
There is my resting place.

And if you love me with true love,
So come to me, my good beloved,
And cheer my gloomy heart
And make sweet my resting place.


ניט זוך מיך ווו די מירטן גרינען.
געפנסט מיך דארטן ניט, מיין שאץ.
ווו לעבנס וועלקן ביי מאשינין,
דארטן איז מיין רוע-פלאץ.

ניט זוך מיך ווו די פייגל זינגען.
געפנסט מיך דארטן ניט, מיין שאץ.
א שקלאף בין איך, ווו קייטן קלינגען,
דארטן איז מיין רוע-פלאץ.

ניט זוך מיך ווו פענטאנען שפריצן.
געפנסט מיך דארטן ניט, מיין שאץ.
ווו טרערן רינען, ציינער קריצר,
דארטן איז מיין רוע-פלאץ.

און ליבסטו מעך מיט ווארער ליבע,
טא קום צו מיר מיין גואער שאץ.
און הייטער אויף מיין הארץ דאס טריבע.
און מעך מיר זיס מיין רוע-פלעץ.


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