In chapter 5 of The Magician of Lublin, when Yasha is in Piask, he overhears this song:

Musicians, sawing small fiddles, chanted a long drawn-out melody. From a wagon of peasant girls jammed together like geese rose a song vowing revenge upon men:

Black am I, oh black.
I'll blacken myself some more
I'll be the blackest thing, dear lad,
That ever made you care.

White am I, oh white.
I'll whiten myself some more
When you look at me, dear boy,
You'll long, but I won't care.
(translated by Elaine Gottlieb and Joseph Singer, 1960)

What's the significance of the colors here? Why the black, then switch to white, and what do these colors mean here in any case? How are they "blacken"ing or "whiten"ing themselves, and in what sense? Actual color? Is this a metaphor?

What's going on here with the colors?


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