Known as the "Poet of the Sweatshops," Rosenfeld (1862-1923) based his poetry on his experience as a garment worker. His poetry was beloved by Yiddish speakers in New York City. Four days after the Triangle Fire, this poem by Morris Rosenfeld was printed down the left side of the entire front page of the The Jewish Daily Forward:
Now let us light the holy candles
And mark the sorrow
Of Jewish masses in darkness and poverty.
This is our funeral,
These our graves,
The beautiful, beautiful flowers destroyed,
Our lovely ones burned,
Their ashes buried under a mountain of caskets.
There will come a time
When your time will end, you golden princes.
Let this haunt your consciences:
Let the burning building, our daughters in flame
Be the nightmare that destroys your sleep,
The poison that embitters your lives,
The horror that kills your joy.
And in the midst of celebrations for your children,
May you be struck blind with fear over the
Memory of this red avalanche
Until time erases you.
-translated from the original Yiddish
The entire poem is here:
Mayn Rue-Platz by Morris Rosenfeld
This beautiful song brings me to tears every time I hear it:
The lyrics, in English and Yiddish:
More on the "Poet of the Sweatshop":
The Ballad of the Triangle Fire by Ruth Rubin
Then on that fateful day - dear God, most terrible of days!
When that fire broke out, it grew into a mighty blaze.
In that firetrap way up there with but a single door,
So many innocent working girls burned, to live no more!
From Save the Music:
Yiddish folklorist, ethnomusicologist and song collector, Ruth Rubin collected and notated over 2000 Yiddish songs. Ms. Rubin sang the Yiddish folksongs, often unaccompanied. She made documentary recordings such as "The Old Country" on Folkways Records, with other folksingers such as Pete Seeger included in the project. In a documentary about her life and work, "A Life of Song: A Portrait of Ruth Rubin" by Cindy Marshall, Ruth Rubin states that her parents moved to Montreal in 1904 and she was born there in 1906 as Rifkele Royzenblatt...She died at 93 in year 2000.The Ballad of the Triangle Fire/Dos lid funem trayengl-fayer was written in 1968, one of the few songs that Ruth Rubin wrote. The melody is haunting. Save the Music has audio of the song which is included in this seven minute concert along with Elegy on the Triangle Fire Victims/Di karbones fun dem trayengel fayr, Bread and Roses, and the famous speech by Rose Schneiderman:
The Ballad of the Triangle Fire/ Seven Minute Concert
Lyrics for the Ballad of the Triangle Fire:
For more on Ruth Rubin:
Also more on Ruth Rubin and much more music here:
(the music at this site will need its own diary!)
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Song by Mike Stout
Born in Kentucky, Mike Stout made his way to New York City and began his musical career in 1968 playing his original protest songs at Café Wa, the Bitter End, and the Gaslight. In search of a steady living he moved to Pittsburgh in 1977 to become a steelworker at the late great Homestead Works. Elected the union’s head grievance man, he used his guitar, voice, music, and lyrics to rally his co-workers at union meetings.For more on the "World's Grievance Man":
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was a call; it woke up a movement;
They died for us all.
For a safer work place, an escape from poverty,
A decent living wage, a life with dignity.
Fight for the living, mourn for the dead;
It's time to do what Mother Jones said.
It seems the race to the bottom
Will take the struggle higher.
Don't let the lesson be forgotten
Of the Shirtwaist Fire,
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.
Identifying Bodies at the Twenty-Sixth Street Pier by Ricardo Llorca
Llorca's work is based on Stanza 17 from Jonathan Fink's poem Conflagration and Wage: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, 1911. All 18 stanzas of Fink's poem can be found here:
Stanza 17. Identifying Bodies at the Twenty-Sixth Street Pier
Policemen stand among the rows of coffins.
Holding lanterns out, the men illuminate the dead
as crowds file past. The women and the men
all move in single file. They lean in close or glance
ahead as if they’re watching for a ship. The coffins
line the inside of the pier and when a body is identified
the lid is closed, the coffin taken from the row.
The husbands and the wives, the daughters
and the sons, respond by sometimes falling
to their knees, or turning back, the crowd dividing.
What familiar item draws the family members
from the line—a ring, a scarf, a mended stocking?
In the moment when the men and women recognize
the body lying at their feet a stillness enters them:
a mother’s posture straightens, palms together
at her waist, her fingers intertwined; a father tugs
the bottom of his jacket, starts to speak, then only nods.
The officers must hold the lanterns through the night.
What preparation steadies men for this?
What training stills the light within their hands?
The Manhattan Choral Ensemble performed the world premiere of Ricardo Llorca's composition at the Church of the Incarnation in New York City on March 12, 2011:
Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.