FRUG, SHIMON SHMUEL


FRUG, SHIMON SHMUEL (1860–1916), Russian poet. Frug was born in a Jewish agricultural colony in Kherson province, Russia; he was self-educated. He began his poetic career writing in Russian, published three volumes of verse, and was the first poet to treat Jewish themes in Russian verse. His poem "The Goblet," written under the impact of the pogroms of 1881, was translated into Yiddish as "Der Kos" by I.L. Peretz and sung by Jews the world over. Soon Frug himself began to write in Yiddish, but his first collection of Yiddish songs and ballads did not appear until 1896. A complete edition in three volumes followed in 1904 and again, with additions, in 1910. His Yiddish national songs were keyed to the needs of his generation. In his popular song "Zamd un Shtern" ("Sand and Stars") he argues with God, asking why He had only fulfilled half His promise to Abraham, making Jews as numerous as sand: but "where are the stars?" The song "Hot Rakhmones" ("Have Pity"), composed after the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, bore the refrain "Have pity, give shrouds for the dead and for the living – bread." It was recited and sung at mass meetings protesting against Czarist oppression of Jews. In his socialist and Zionist lyrics, he pleaded for a return of the Jews to productive labor on their ancestral soil. His songs inspired the early Zionist pioneers. He also composed ballads based on Jewish folklore, of which the best known is "Dem Shames Tokhter," "The Sexton's Daughter," a Jewish parallel to the Greek tale of Admetus and Alcestis. Frug, who suffered from poverty, misfortune, illness, and family troubles in his last years in Odessa, characterized himself as a poet who wept all his life.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Rejzen, Leksikon, 3 (1929), 138–62; Feinberg, in: JBA, 17 (1959/60), 65–72; Singer, ibid., 24 (1966/67), 87–90; S. Liptzin, Flowering of Yiddish Literature (1963), 65–72; E.H. Jeshurin, S. Frug, Bibliografye (1960); L. Wiener, History of Yiddish Literature (1899).

[Melech Ravitch]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.