Davidovsky's Ladino Songs

Sepharidic Jews carry linguistic after-images of Spain to the four corners

The Ladino poetry set by Mario Davidovsky in his Ladino Songs are linguistic memories of the Jewish presence in Spain before the expulsion in 1492. We do not know if the poetry was written before the expulsion or afterwards.


Soprano Elizabeth Farnum, with Cygnus - Tara Helen O'Connor, flute; Robert Ingliss, oboe; Calvin Wiersma, violin; Susannah Chapman, 'cello; Oren Fader & William Anderson guitars


If the sea was (made of) milk
and the vessels of cinnamon
I would stain myself entirely
To save my banner

If the sea was milk
I would become a fisherman
I would fish my sorrows
With loving words

On the sea there is a tower
On the tower there is a window
On the window there is a maiden
Who loves the sailors

Give me your hand (my) dove
To climb to your nest
Unlucky you sleep alone
I am coming to sleep with you.



The captive is coming
With all the captives (women)
Among them
is the white girl

It was not quite dawn
Nor daylight
When the white girl
Sang her sorrows
Oh! what green fields
Fileds of olive trees
Where my mother Gracia
Washed and syated (?)
Oh!, what white tombstones
Tombs of our ancestors
I pass over them
Like a bird on its flight.



Open up my love
it is already daybreak
I cannot open to you
my handsome love
I do not sleep at night
thinking of you
My father is reading
he will hear us
Extinguish the light
and he will sleep
extinguish his light
and he will fall asleep

y mother is sewing
she will hear us
Hide her needle
and she will sleep
ose her needle
and she will fall asleep

My brother is writing
he will hear us
Lose his pen
and he will sleep
hide his pen
an he will fall asleep

(repeat first stanza)

Ladino Songs live at the Library of Congress