The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Chapter 1< The First Half of the Seventeenth Century(Redirected from The First Half of the Seventeenth Century/Holland-Verse and Prose)
HOLLAND—VERSE AND PROSE
introductory—mediæval romance and lyric—the fourteenth century—maerlant and other didactic poets—dirk potter—fifteenth century—the chambers of rhetoric—anna bijns—renaissance—marnix and coornhert—spieghel and roemer visscher—the "eglantine" or "oude kamer"—hooft—song-books—brederoo and starter—vondel—life and work—criticism—literature outside amsterdam—the hague: huyghens—zeeland: jacob cats—camphuyzen—stalpert van der wiele—followers of vondel and hooft—latin prose and verse—heinsius and grotius—dutch prose—hooft—brandt.
On no country in Europe did the two main influences of the sixteenth century—the Renaissance and the Introductory. Reformation—set a deeper mark than on the Netherlands. The country which produced Erasmus is not the least important contributor to the revival of learning, while the revolt of the Netherlands was, in Motley's words, "the longest, the darkest, the bloodiest, the most important episode in the history of the religious reformation in Europe." Of the greatness of the people which emerged victorious from this struggle, of the high level of culture and learning to which they had attained, of the range and magnificence of their achievement in the art of painting, there has never been any question. But of the Dutch literature of the seventeenth century little is known outside Holland except by a few scholars, and it has not been unusual to speak of Dutch literature as an entirely negligible quantity, because the Netherlands produced no creative genius of that highest class to which Shakespeare and Cervantes belong. But geniuses of such world-wide recognition are the exception. The degree to which a country's literature is studied abroad depends not on intrinsic merit alone, but on the country's political importance and familiarity with its language. The student of Dutch literature in the seventeenth century will not find a drama comparable, strictly as drama, with that of England or France or Spain, nor an epic and narrative poetry comparable to that of Italy, and of England as represented by Milton. But he will find and enjoy a lyrical poetry of singular depth and richness, characterised by that feeling for nature which is such a striking feature of Dutch painting, by what the Dutch critic J. A. Alberdingk Thijm justly entitles "le naturel, la naïveté, la franchise, et le sentiment de la couleur qui paraissent être inhérents au caractère néerlandais." In naturalness, in the sense attached to the word when we speak of the "return to nature," feeling for external nature, interest in the life of the people, the inclination to discard convention and make poetry the simple, direct, and vibrating utterance of the poet's own emotions, Dutch poetry, taken as a whole, partly because it is a bourgeois or middle-class product, seems to me in advance of the poetry of any country with which this volume deals. For this simplicity and directness is not characteristic of Renaissance lyric poetry in Italy or the countries which caught their inspiration from Italy. Even in the case of Shakespeare's sonnets it is notoriously difficult to say how far the feeling is sincere, how far conventional. In English poetry one might say that lyrical poetry, as we have come to understand the phrase since Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley wrote, begins with Lycidas—in the personal digressions—and Milton's sonnets. But poetry of this self-revealing outspoken character abounds in the literature with which this chapter deals, and although of course in form and style Dutch poetry is not unaffected by the conventions of the century, yet only one poet, Hooft, really mastered the courtly style, and caught the tone of the Italian Petrarchians and the Pléiade. Vondel and Brederoo and Huyghens are most effective when most natural and direct, not least so when they express themselves in dialect. The natural runs easily into the commonplace, and of the commonplace there is not a little in Dutch poetry. Its apostle is Jacob Cats; yet even in Cats there is a vein of racy narrative, while in ardour and elevation there are few lyrical poets superior to Vondel.
The space at our disposal to deal even with this greatest period in Dutch literature is so limited that Mediæeval Romances. it is impossible to say more than a word concerning the earlier poetry. Mediæval literature is represented in the Low Countries by all the usual forms—romances, Carlovingian, Arthurian, and Oriental (Alexander and Troy), versified saints' legends, shorter tales or sproken, lyrics, and a considerable body of didactic literature. Of the drama something will be said in the following chapter. The Dutch romances of the thirteenth century are mainly, if not entirely, translated from the French. Moriaen is probably an exception, and Professor Kalff defends the originality of Karel ende Elegast and the fine Roman van Walewein. Most interesting of all is the popular Reinaert, based on a French work, but much superior to the original, and admittedly the finest version of the Keynard stories.
It was, naturally, the nobility and their followers who were the principal readers of the romances, as Religious and
Didactic Poetry. it was the "religious" who composed and studied poems such as Vanden Leven ons Heeren, Beatrijs, and other saints' legends. The taste of the middle classes, which began to assert itself as the thirteenth century drew to a close, is represented by the didactic writers, at the head of whom stands the prolific Jacob van Maerlant, author of versions of the Alexander, Merlin, and Troy stories, and of various didactic works such as the Rijmbijbel and Spieghel Historiael (Mirror of History). He was followed by a number of verse chroniclers and didactic writers, as Melis Stoke and Jan van Boendale or de Clerk, author of a Lekenspieghel (Mirror for Laymen), whom it is impossible to enumerate here. The Roman de la Rose, the tone of the second part of which is that of this cultured middle class, was translated in the fourteenth century by Hein van Aken.
The same century produced abundance of short tales or sproken, a few courtly, very many didactic,Lyrical Poetry. and some in the humorous popular vein of the French fabliau. They were recited in banqueting halls by the Sprekers or Zeggers, and many of the more humorous and coarse of them have probably been lost. A collection of stories, serious and humorous, very much in the style of Gower's Confessio Amantis, from which indeed the Dutch poet borrows, was made by Dirk Potter (1370-1428) under the title Minnenloop. Potter, like Chaucer, visited Italy, but he learnt nothing from Italian poetry, and stands much closer to Gower and Cats than to the author of the Canterbury Tales. To the fourteenth century belong also the oldest extant Dutch songs, ballads, and love-poems, such as the famous Het daget in den Oosten, Halewijn, Graaf Floris, Een liedeken vanden Mey, De Leeuwerik, and others. The lyrics of Zuster Hadewijch—in which the language of the Minnesingers is employed to express a mystical passion for Christ—belong to the thirteenth century. Other religious songs are the charming Kerstliederen or Christmas songs, the Maria-liederen, and the Liederen der Minnende Ziele. No part of Mediæval Dutch or Flemish literature is more entirely delightful than the songs.
The centres or nuclei of literature in the Low Countries during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were the Chambers of Rhetoric. Indeed to Chambers of
Rhetoric. the end of the seventeenth century the conditions of dramatic production were determined by the old customs of these celebrated institutions. The name, and possibly to some extent the institution, of "Rederijkers-kamers" came from France, where these secular and literary developments of the religious guilds were known as "Chambres de Rhétorique," "Puys," "Cours d'amour"; but in no country did they thrive more vigorously than in Flanders, Brabant, Zeeland, and Holland. Every town, and almost every village, had its chamber. They combined the functions and attractions of a dramatic company, a literary society, and a convivial club. "Rederijker, Kannekijker" became a proverb, and Jan Steen's picture in Brussels is characteristic of at any rate their later developments. They instituted competitions—Landjuweelen or smaller Haagspelen—at which prizes were offered for the most magnificent procession into town and the most elaborate decoration of the hostel where a chamber lodged, as well as for the best dramatic or poetic work. This work was not, however, of a high order. The dramatic Zinnespelen (Moralities) and Kluchten (Farces)—of which we shall have something to say in the next chapter—and the lyrical Refereinen and Liedekens of the chambers, were the last colourless products of the Middle Ages touched with the pedantry of the revival of learning, and composed in a style corrupted by bastard French words. The loosely rhythmical metre easily passes into doggerel. The best lyrics of the sixteenth century are not those of the "rederijkers," but the people's songs or "volksliederen," which handled the old courtly themes in a more free and homely spirit. In the second half of the sixteenth century these songs became, as in the famous "Geuzenliederen," the most potent expression of religious and political sentiment. The war-songs of the English Puritans a century later were the Psalms of David. The Dutch Calvinists expressed their feelings more directly in simple and moving descriptions of the sufferings of martyrs to the cause, and in fierce onslaughts upon Philip and the Pope. It was the spirit of an unconquerable people which breathed in their rude verses:—
"Help now yourself and you shall see
God from the tyrant set you free,
The rope that's round your neck must be
Torn by your own right hand."
The national anthem of Holland is still the grave and resolute—
"Wilhelmus van Nassouwen
ben ik van duytschen bloed:
Het vaterland getrouwe
blijf ik tot in den dood."
It is impossible, and hardly necessary, to mention individual "Rederijkers," even the fairly important De Casteleyn. Matthijs de Casteleyn (1488?-1550), author of a Const van Rhetoriken, in which, using the common device of a dream, he gives rules for the art of rhetoric or poetry. Above all, the poet must use "aureate" terms or "schuim," for as the sun illumines the day and the moon the night, "alsoo verlicht schuym eene schoone oratie." He must begin with easier compositions, as "balladen" and "rondeelen," before attempting what is most difificult—namely, the Morality. Only one poet, whose work is definitely "Rederijkers" poetry, succeeded in impressing upon it a distinct individuality, and thatAnna Bijns. was the Antwerp poetess Anna Biins, who lived about the same time as De Casteleyn. Of her life we know only what can be gathered from her "refereinen,"—that she had known the pleasures and gaieties of the world, had loved and had been disappointed, and, like others of her sex, found consolation in religion, becoming a fiery champion of the Catholic Church against the new heresies of Luther. Of her early life she writes with the hyperbole to which the language of religious remorse has always tended. The tone of her poetry is that of the burgher class, far removed from the refined and mystical style of Zuster Hadewijch and the mediæval religious poets. She is a woman of her class and of her people, looking out on the world of everyday life with shrewd gaze, and describing it with vigour and even coarseness in images drawn from familiar objects and experiences. What exalts and distinguishes her "refereinen" is the intense feeling with which they glow, whether religious or erotic, lyrical or didactic.
The poetry of the chambers was not of a kind which could long satisfy those who had once tastedRenaissance. of the sweets of classical and Italian poetry, and as the sixteenth century drew to a close men of culture made strenuous efforts to reproduce in their own language what they admired in Virgil and Horace, Seneca and Cicero, Petrarch and Marot and Ronsard. One of the first and best results of these efforts was the purification of the language; and the second was the gradual substitution of a more regular metre for the loose, often doggerel, rhythm of the zinnespelen and refereinen. The first translations of the classics were in the style and verse still in vogue; but in 1597 Karel van Mander, a Flemish poet and painter, produced a version of Virgil's Eclogues and Georgics which Professor Kalff describes as fairly faithful, pure in language, and written in metrical, at times even flowing, verse. Jan van der Noot (1538?-1595?), a native of Antwerp, but driven for a time to wander in other lands, and familiar with the works of Dante, Petrarch, and the Pléiade, wrote odes, sonnets, and epigrams, as well as an elaborate allegory in more than one metre. Their poetic merit is not great, but they show a significant striving after form, and some dignity of style. But the most important predecessors of the "bloeitijd" in the literature of Holland were Philip van Marnix van St Aldegond, the fiery Calvinistic statesman and friend of William the Silent, Dirck Volckertz. Coornhert (1522-1590), Henrick Laurensz. Spieghel (1549-1612), and Roemer Visscher.
Of these Marnix was the greatest. He was a man of culture, ardent faith, and ardent patriotism, and at the same time stood outside the circle of the chambers. The Wilhelmuslied, the most famous of the "Geuzenliederen," is probably by him, and his metrical version of the Psalms marks the highest level reached by Dutch poetry in the sixteenth century. The rhythm and stanza-structure is in each adapted to the feeling of the psalm in a manner which is characteristic of Dutch lyrical poetry in the following century:—
"Straf doch niet in ongenaden
Heer! maer heb met mij gedult!
Wil niet zynd in toom ontsteken,
Aen my wreken
Mijne sonde en sware schuldt."
De Byenkorf der Heiligh Roomsche Kerk (1569), a savage satire on the Church of Rome, is the first work in which Dutch prose showed itself an instrument of sufficient power and pliability to do the work hitherto assigned to Latin. In Holland, as in France and England, it is to the Reformation's requirement of a polemic, addressed not only to scholars but to "the man in the street," that we owe the evolution of modern prose.
Coornhert, Visscher, and Spieghelwere men of more culture than genius. They differ from Marnix also in their attitude towards religion. All of them represent the growth in cultured circles, towards the close of the century, of a more liberal sentiment and a distaste of Calvinistic tyranny. Coornhert's life was spent in controversy, and his own independent position (he was dubbed a "libertine") was the outcome of the study of the Bible and the Fathers on the one hand, and the ancient philosophers on the other. He translated Boethius and Cicero's De Officiis, and composed an eclectic treatise on ethics, Zedekunst dat is Wellevenskunst (1586), in which Stoic morality is illumined by Christian faith, and which, as a piece of pure, clear, and often striking prose, stands next to Marnix's Byenkorf. Spieghel and Visscher were more entirely men of letters than Marnix and Coornhert. As Catholics—though liberal Catholics—they held aloof from public life, but they were both members of the Amsterdam Chamber of Rhetoric, known from its blazon as the "Eglantine." Since 1578 the Eglantine, known also as "De Oude Kamer," had been one of the most important of the chambers, and as the century drew to a close, was much concerned about the purification of the language and the advance of rhetoric. Spieghel and Visscher were leading members, and their houses centres of literary culture. To Visscher's house an additional charm was given by his cultured daughters, Anna and Tesselschade, themselves much admired, if not really distinguished, poetesses, and the friends of Hooft and Huyghens, Brederoo and Vondel. Neither Visscher nor Spieghel was a great poet. Visscher's Brabbelingh (1614) and Sinne-en-Minnepoppen (1614) consist mainly of epigrams and poems of a half-humorous, half-didactic caste. Spieghel wrote some sonnets and songs which have a little of the grace of their Italian originals, but in later life he grew serious and composed moral and religious lyrics, as well as an elaborate ethical poem in Alexandrines—Hert-spieghel—didactic, even prosaic, in spirit, harsh and obscure in style.
Thus by the close of the sixteenth century the study of classical and Italian literature had done much for the purification of the language, and had quickened a desire for improvement in style and verse. But poetry was still didactic and heavy: no artist had yet appeared to do for Dutch poetry what Spenser by The Shepheardes Kalender did for English in 1579,—no poet capable of transplanting the flower of Renaissance poetry from Italian or French soil and naturalising it in Holland. But the seventeenth century had not long to wait before such a poet appeared in Pieter Cornelisz Hooft, not certainly a poet of the creative genius ofHooft. Spenser, but a true poet, an artist to the finger-tips, and a man of no less vigour and independence of mind than varied and complete culture.
The oldest son of a wealthy Amsterdam burgher, Hooft was at sixteen a member of the "Oude Kamer," and author of a classical play—Achilles en Polyxena—in "rederijkers" style. From June 1598 to May 1601 he was abroad visiting Germany, France, and Italy, studying especially the classical historians, but also doubtless the poets of Italy and France, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Ronsard. His first play that shows Italian influence—Granida—appeared in 1605. Meantime he was studying letters and law at Leyden preparatory to official work. In 1609 he was appointed Drost of Muiden and Bailiff of Gooiland, with an official residence, the Muider Slot on the Zuyder Zee, which he occupied in summer, and which he made the centre of a brilliant literary and learned circle known as the "Muiderkring." Here he wrote love-poems in the style which he had begun to cultivate at Leyden, where he celebrated his first love, Brechtje Spieghel, and mourned her early death. His later verses are addressed to his first and second wives, Christina van Erp and Eleonora Hellemans, or to Susanna van Baerle, who married Huyghens, or to Anna and Tesselschade Visscher. Here he composed his best plays, and in the last years of his life, having prepared himself for the task by a careful study of Tacitus, his historical works, including the great Nederlandsche Historien, begun in 1628 and published, but not completed, in 1642. Hooft died in 1648.
Hooft's love-poetry is the most complete representative in Holland of the love-poetry of the Renaissance, with all its conventions—Petrarchian, mythological, and pastoral. He gathered the flower in Italy and France, but he grafted it on a healthy native or naturalised stock of popular airs and rhythms, and coloured it with his own full-blooded Epicurean temperament. He wrote sonnets and wrote them well, whether purely complimentary and conventional, or passionate,—as once at any rate, in "Mijn lief, mijn lief, mijn lief"—or best of all, when the thought is weighty and dignified, as that to Hugo Grotius, which Mr Gosse has translated, or the following sonnet to a newly-born child, his nephew:—
"O fresh young fruit, that from the quiet night
Of slumber in the womb awaked, must go—
Time that lets nothing rest hath willed it so—
Forth to the whirl of sense, the realms of light!
Lo! birth hath given thee o'er to Fortune's might.
Her school is change. She mingles joy with woe,
And woe with joy, exalts and hurls below,
Till dazed with hope and fear we darkling fight.
May He Who giveth all things grant thee a heart
Undaunted to withstand the fiercest dart
Fate in her anger at thy life may speed:
Her gifts too when in milder mood she pours
Riches and joys and honour from full stores,
Be it thine to use grateful and with good heed."
But it is in lyrical measures of all kinds, especially light and tripping, that Hooft excels, and they are the best expression of his seldom passionate but Epicurean and often playful moods. He can use a stately iambic to express a luxurious melancholy, as in the delightful memories of early love, which Goethe might have written—
"'T gemoedt herwenscht verlooren vrolijckheden,
En wentelt in den schijn des tijts voorleden,
Wanneer 't de stappen siet die 't heeft getreden.
Hoor jck haer naem, of comt me Min mij tegen,
Het bloedt comt, uit mijn teen, nae 't hooft gestegen.
U hartje, Lief, en voelt het geen bewegen?"—
but more commonly a tripping trochaic, dactylic, or anapæstic measure is employed, as in the delightful pastoral—
"Vluchtige nymph waer heen soo snel?
Galathea wacht n wel,
Dat u vlechten
Niet en hechten,
Met haer opgesnoerde goudt
Onder de tacken van dit hout";
"Amaril, had ick hair uit iiw tuitjen,
'K wed ick vleughelde' het goodtjen, het guitjen,
Dat met sijn brandt, met sijn boogh, met sijn flitsen,
Landt tegen landt over einde kan hitsen,
En beroofde den listighen stoocker,
Van sijn toorts, sijn geschut en sijn koocker";
"Rosemont, hoordij speelen noch singen?
Siet den daegheraedt op koomen dringen";
or, one of his favourite stanzas, used by Constable—
"Op's winters endt,
Wanneer de lent,
Dat puick en pit der tijen,
Voortdoet de kraem
Van haer kleenooderijen";
and many other rhythms impossible to describe here. No poet in Holland caught so much of the grace and elegance of Renaissance song. And yet Hooft is still a Dutchman. There are no "metaphysics" in his love-poetry, no super-refined idealism. Nature is never far away, and he is capable occasionally of deviating into the prosaic. Nor was he only an Epicurean lover of good verses and beautiful women, but also a scholar and thinker, the disciple of Seneca and Montaigne as well as Petrarch and Ronsard. In one of his epithalamia he turns aside to write an appreciation of Montaigne, which contains the gist of Pascal's famous disquisition on that writer and Epictetus. His Stichtrijmen en Zededichten, epigrams, inscriptions, and addresses, are condensed in style and weighty in thought. He was a staunch patriot, though more stoical in his outlook than the sensitive and sympathetic Vondel, and his patriotism finds expression in some noble occasional poems, such as the Lykklacht van Pieter Dirckz. Hasselaer, as well as in his tragedies. Vondel is a greater poet than Hooft, but not a more finished artist; and in virtue of his deeper culture and varied achievements—lyric poet, tragedian, comic poet, and historian, the greatest prose-writer of the century—Hooft was regarded as the more eminent man of letters.
The seventeenth century in Holland was prolific of song-books,—collections, generally, of songs by different "hands," the members of some chamber of rhetoric. Den Nieuwen Lusthof (1602) and Den Bloemhof van de Nederlandsche Jeught were the work principally of members of the Eglantine, Den Nederduytsche Helicon (1610) of exiles from the southern Netherlands. The poems in these collections are mainly "refereinen," and their poetic worth is slight. The first collection in which a newer and finer vein appeared, both courtly Italianate love-poetry, and poetry of a more popular character but written with fresh art and vigour, was the Apollo of ghesang der Muzen wiens lieflijcke stemmen meerendeels in vrolijcke en eerlycke ghescelschappen werden ghesongen (1615). The best of the courtly songs in this collection were the work of Hooft; the best of the popular songs, the comic or "boertige liedjes," were by the editor of the collectionBrederoo.—the young romantic and comic dramatist, Gerbrand Adriaensz Brederoo (1585-1618). Like Marlowe, the son of a shoemaker but a man of substance, the young Brederoo was educated, not without success, as a painter, but his poetic genius soon made him one of the most brilliant members of the "Oude Kamer" and of the circle which met at the house of Hooft and Roemer Visscher. He was one of Tesselschade's many admirers and suitors, but his humble birth and convivial tastes did not recommend him to her father. But his experiences as a "lustig gezel," and an ensign in the Town Guard, made him intimately acquainted with the life of the people, and his best work in drama and song is that which reflects their life and moods.
Of Brederoo's comedies we shall speak later. His Boertigh amoreus en aendachtigh Groot Liedt-Boeck (1622) contains, as the name indicates, humorous, love, and religious songs. The first are by far the best, and it is only regrettable that he did not write more of them instead of essaying the more artificial and conventional love-poetry, in which he could not vie with the cultured Hooft. The Boerengezelschap, beginning—
"Arent Pieter Gysen, met Mieuwes, Jaap en Leen, En Klaasjen, en Kloentjen, die trocken t's amen heen Na 't Dorp van Vinckeveen Wangt ouwe Frangs, die gaf sen Gangs Die worden of ereen"; and describing how a peasants' meeting for jollification ended in drawn knives and blood, has the swing and animation of a poem by Burns, the spirit of a picture by Jan Steen. None of the others are quite so vigorous, but there are some admirable pieces of peasant moralising on themes familiar to readers of Burns, as "What can a young lassie do wi' an auld man?" the comparative claims of love and a comfortable "tocher," and the dangers of rejecting too often some ardent Duncan Gray. The simpler love-poems, too, written in a frank peasant strain, are often excellent, passionate, and flowing.
Equally gay and fresh—if never showing quite the same passion and descriptive vigour—are the songsStarter. of the Dutch poet of English birth, Jan Janszen Starter, who, born in London of Brownist parents, was a member of the "Oude Kamer," but spent several years of his wandering irregular life at Leeuwarden in Friesland, and at Franeker. He finally enlisted with Mansfeld, and seems to have died worn out on a march some time before 1628. He was a dramatist and a facile writer of occasional verses—epithalamia, songs on victories, visits, deaths, &c., as well as love- and drinking- ditties. His employment of the courtly conventions is, of course, less graceful than Hooft's, but his gayer love-poems and his drinking-songs are spirited and rhythmical. His metres seem to me even lighter and more dancing than Brederoo's—
"Doen ik was in't bloeyen van mijn tyd, in 't groeyen van mijn jaren
In 't groenst, in 't soetst, in 't sotst, in 't boertigst van mijn jeught
Docht ik noyt myn selven met een vrouw of vrouws gelijck te paren,
Maar te leven vry onghcbonden in de vreught
Och, ick wurpt soo veer
En docht altyd weer
Die een vrouw heeft heeft in 't gemeen een heer."
"Sult ghy dan niet beginnen een reys?
Waarna begheert ghy doch langer te beyen?
Naaste Gebuyrtje voldoet ghy mijn eys
Heft op een Liedtjen, men sal u geleyen."
As Professor Kalff says, Starter's songs sing themselves. Those in a patriotic strain are of the fierce breed of the Geuzenliederen.
Starter never forgot altogether his English origin. It betrays itself in occasional phrases; many of his songs are written to English airs; and two at any rate are translations—Is Bommelalire zoo groote geneughd and the Menniste Vryagie, the latter from the "Wooing of a Puritan" in the old comedy How a man may choose a good wife from a bad. Starter's songs were collected in 1621 and 1622 in a volume entitled De Friesche Lusthof.
The greatest of Dutch poets united a large measure of the culture of Hooft to the racy vigour of Brederoo, and a lyric inspiration as deep and full as that possessedVondel. by any poet of the seventeenth century. Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) was by birth a South Netherlander, which probably explains in part the peculiar ardour of his temperament. His parents were natives of Antwerp, pious Baptists, who were driven by religious persecution to Cologne, where the poet was born in the year, as he said, of the murder of Mary. While he was still a child they migrated to Utrecht and finally to Amsterdam, where his father soon acquired a considerable business in the stocking trade. Vondel's brother received a classical education, but he himself was bred to his father's business—a circumstance, as it proved, by no means unfortunate. The stocking trade conducted by his wife secured him a competence such as he could never have gained from poetry or plays. The only remuneration which the former brought to a Dutch poet were gifts from corporations or individuals, made in return for occasional poems, as epithalamia, poems on victories and state-entries, and others of the kind that the chambers had cultivated. Starter was offered a fixed sum by a group of merchants on condition that he would remain in Amsterdam and provide them with songs as required, for each of which he was to receive further two florins. Such a livelihood as Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson obtained from the theatre was not available for a Dutch poet where the actors were the members of the guilds, paid a small sum for their trouble, and a large part of the profits were handed over by the chambers to charitable institutions.
The education which his father denied him Vondel secured for himself, sharing to the full the opinion ofEducation. his age, which his biographer Brandt lays down with emphasis, that no genius can dispense with learning and especially familiarity with the Greek and Latin poets, "that from their thyme they may suck honey." His earliest noteworthy works, a poem on the death of Henri IV. (1610), the finer Lofzang over de Scheepsvaert der vereenighde Nederlanden (1613), and the drama Het Pascha (1612), bear traces of his reading of Du Bartas—as popular in Holland as in England—and of Garnier's choruses. He was already grown-up and an author when he began the study of Latin, and later in life he acquired sufficient Greek to translate from that language with the help of more scholarly friends, and to recognise, to the advantage of his later plays, the superiority of the Greek tragedians to Seneca. His successive poems show the effect of his studies on his maturing art, but he never became a scholar such as Milton was, and it is not altogether to be regretted. He was not tempted to Latinise his idiom. The purity of Vondel's language is as much the boast of his people as its richness.
While the form of Vondel's poetry was modified by classical and other literary influences, its spirit was Inspiration. quickened by the events happening around him. Love of God and of his fellow-men was the inspiration of all Vondel's poetry; and he was still a young man, brought up in the particular sect of the Baptists known as the "Waterlanderen," when his sensitive and ardent nature was stirred to its depths by the conflict between the Calvinists and Arminians that ended in the Synod of Dort and the execution of Oldenbarneveldt. At what date some of his earliest satires were written is difficult to say, as they were not published at once. The condensed and pithy Op de Waegschael van Holland, beginning
"Gommar en Armijn te Hoof
Dongen om het recht geloof,"
and telling how Maurice's sword turned the scale, is assigned by Brandt to 1618, and the fiery Geuse Vesper may belong to the same time; but the first of his works which arrested attention, and may be said to inaugurate his active poetical career, was the Senecan tragedy Palamedes of Vermoorde Onnoozelheid, a veiled attack on the intolerance of the Calvinist preachers and the ambition of Prince Maurice, which had brought Oldenbarneveldt to the scaffold. The publication placed Vondel in considerable danger, from which he ultimately escaped with a fine; but it also indicated the appearance of a new and great poet. Readers recognised, Brandt says, a purity of language, an elevation of thought, and a flow of verse superior to anything which Dutch poetry had yet achieved. From the publication of Palamedes onwards to the end of his life Vondel poured forth poetry in a never-failing stream, lyric and didactic, satiric and narrative, as well as dramas and translations.
Translation was to Vondel a means of preparing for original work as well as an interest in itself.Translations. Before he composed Palamedes he had put into verse a translation of the Troades of Seneca made by himself and some scholarly friends. When he learned Greek he made versions of plays of Euripides and Sophocles, and his works include complete translations in prose and verse of Virgil and Horace, as well as a metrical version of the Psalms and a prose rendering—still in manuscript—of Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata.
The longer didactic poems were the fruit of his conversion to Rome, and include, besides the Brieven Didactics. der Heilige Maeghden (1642), which is not strictly didactic, being the "heroical epistles" of martyred maidens, the Altaergeheimenissen (1645), on the Mass, De Heerlyckheit der Kerke (1663), on the Church, and the Bespiegelingen van Godt en Godtsdienst (1662), on the divine attributes. Before he finally, in 1636, adopted tragedy as the most fitting form for great and grave poetry, he meditated an epic on the subject of Constantine, but the death of his wife broke his purpose, and his only narrative poem, Johannes de Boetgezant, is a short epic of six books, suggested by the Strage degli Innocenti, which, like Paradise Regained, is in part didactic, the narrative being interrupted by long discourses.
Of the innumerable lyrical poems which he wrote, ranging in length from over thirteen hundred to aLyrics. couple of lines, Groote Lofdichten, Zegezangen, Bruiloftdichten, &c., the great majority were, like the satires or Hekeldichten, occasional poems, written to celebrate the sea-power of Holland, the birth of a prince of the House of Orange, the victories of Frederick Henry by land or van Tromp and Ruiter by sea, the building of a new Stadhuis, or the visit of Henrietta Maria, the marriages and deaths of his friends. The poetry of the Chambers of Rhetoric had been of this occasional character, and Vondel's poetry, more than Hooft's, represents the final flower of the Rederijkers' poetry, enriched by the culture of the Renaissance and the strong air of freedom and commercial prosperity. He was the Laureate of Amsterdam, when that city was the heart of the Netherlands, and the Netherlands stood at the very centre of the movements of Western Europe, responsive to all that took place from Sweden to Spain, from Turkey to England, and looking out over the seas, of which her control was just beginning to be disputed, to the Indies, East and West. To Vondel's ardent patriotism, humanity, and piety these themes were far more congenial than the refinements of love which Hooft sang in courtly and Italianate style. Early and happily married, Vondel hardly touched on love except in the Epithalamia he wrote for his friends, and it is only occasionally that the current of his private life rises to the surface in his verse.
Apart from this large and varied literary activity, the chief events of Vondel's life were his conversionConversion. to Rome, which took place finally in 1641, though the symptoms of what was going on in the poet's mind can be traced much earlier, and the tragic events which overshadowed his closing years. Vondel's conversion was a result of the same wave of reaction which produced the Anglo-Catholicism of Laud, and which carried Crashaw, with whose ardent and mystical temperament Vondel had much in common, out of the via media altogether. Personal ties with Rome Vondel had through his only and much-loved brother, his friends Anna and Tesselschade Visscher, and his daughter, who had preceded him. The Arminians, with whom he fought his first battle against Calvinism, were liberally inclined, moving in the same direction as Hales and Chillingworth. Vondel's profoundly religious nature required more definite dogma, and it is clear from all his later poetry that he found in the faith and practice of the Church of Rome full and intense satisfaction of heart and imagination. Grotius, whom he loved and admired, was carried in the same direction by his study of antiquity.
The closing years of Vondel's life were saddened, Last Years. though not embittered, by the folly of the son to whom he had transferred his business. He not only failed, but made away with large sums entrusted to his care. The aged poet came to the rescue, and with the savings of a lifetime cleared his name. Left thus penniless, he was granted a post in the Amsterdam Mont de Piété, from which he was allowed to retire on his full salary after ten years' service. He made no complaint, his biographer says, and there is no reference to the circumstances in his work such as we find to Milton's private as well as public misfortunes in Samson Agonistes. Vondel had not the sublime egotism of Milton, and his religion was more essentially Christian. He was, like the English poet, a good hater, but his nature was less stern. His hatred of the Gomarists was the reflection from his love of God and his fellow-men, a detestation of the intolerance which brought a father of his country to the scaffold, and of a doctrine which, stated with the logical severity of the seventeenth century, seemed to him an outrage on God and the human heart. But he could no more have written some of the fiercest passages of Milton's episcopal pamphlets than he could have attained to the stern and majestic sublimity of Paradise Lost. Vondel's highest flights are on the wings of adoration and love, and recall Crashaw rather than Milton.
Born more than twenty years before Milton, Vondel outlived him by five, dying in 1679, the acknowledged head of Dutch poets, yet alienated to some extent from his people by his change of faith, and never so widely popular as the homely and garrulous Cats.
Vondel's greatest success was achieved in lyrical poems—under which head his satires fall—andCountry. lyrical tragedy, and it will be sufficient here to indicate some aspects of the first of these. Of what I have called his laureate lyrics—pæans and eulogies—time has evaporated some of the interest, and poems of this sort produced in such abundance were necessarily unequal. Much of the content is conventional (whether mythological or pastoral), and Vondel handles the conventional with less art than Hooft. Nor had he the architectonic skill with which Milton builds an elaborate ode. His inspiration ebbs and flows, and the style with it, becoming at times harsh, bombastic, and prosaic. Yet, though unequal, these poems are wonderfully vital. Even such an elaborate and detailed description of Amsterdam and its commercial activity as is given in the Inwyding van het Stadhuis (1655) sustains the reader's interest to the end by its wonderfully animated and sympathetic picture of the stress of life in what was the greatest mercantile city in the world. In his short tractate on poetry, Aenleyding ter Nederduitsche Dichtkunst (1650), Vondel condemns emptiness above all faults. "If you are engaged on a work demanding sustained inspiration (van eenen langen adem), see to it that it flag neither in the middle nor at the close, but keep full sail throughout." These glowing and flowing poems, though certainly "long-winded," surprise by their sustained ardour, fertility of thought, and broad, full rhythm.
But Vondel is more effective and felicitous in the shorter and intenser satires. These were not, like Justice. Huyghens', composed on the classical model, but are rather political squibs, popular songs and ballads, often in the nasal Amsterdam dialect, or short, pithy, epigrammatic copies of verses. Indignation has seldom inspired more burning lines than the short and famous Geuse Vesper of Sieckentroost on the execution of Oldenbarneveldt:—
"Did he bear the fate of Holland
On his heart,
To the latest breath he drew
With bitter smart;
Thus to lave a perjured sword
With stainless blood,
And to batten crow and raven
On his good?
Was it well to carve that neck
Within whose veins
Age the loyal blood had withered?
'Mong his gains
Were not found the Spanish pistoles
Foul with treason,
Strewn to whet the mob's wild hate,
That knows no reason.
But the Cruelty and Greed
Which plucked the sword
Ruthless from the sheath, now mourns
With bitter word;
What avails for us, alas! that
Blood and gain
Now to dull Remorse's cruel
Ay! content you now all preachers
East and West,
Pray the saints of Dort to find your
'Tis in vain ! the Lord stands knocking
At the door,
And that blood will plead for vengeance
The Decretum Horribile is an impassioned expression of his abhorrence of the doctrine which consigned newly-born infants to eternal perdition. The lofty strain of consolation in which the poem closes indicates clearly what it was in Romanism—its appeal to the heart and the imagination—which charmed him as it did Crashaw. These two poems are probably the finest expression of the mingled indignation and sorrow which is the purest note in Vondel's satire. Roskam (1630) and Harpoen (1630) are more quiet and argumentative expostulations against endless theological hatred and strife. His humour and his command of the racy dialect of Amsterdam are well shown in Rommelpot van 't Hanekot (1627), where the mutual amenities of the Contra-Remonstrant clergy are portrayed under the figure of a roost full of gobbling, scratching, fighting cocks. More purely poetic and lyric are the two strange ballads he wrote, to some popular air, when in 1654 his Lucifer was driven from the stage by the fury of the clergy. In an almost Shelleyan strain he sings of the fate of Orpheus, torn by the "rout that made the hideous roar"—
"Toen Orfeus met zyn keel,
Toen Orfeus met zyn keel, en veel
In 't mastbosch zong en speelde
Dat schoone, lustprieel."
None of Vondel's poems stand higher to-day than the satires in the estimation of his countrymen. "As satirist," says Professor Moltzer, "Vondel is a phœnix. In him Dutch poetry attained her zenith,—that is what we may say in thinking of by far the most of his satirical poems and verses." The reason is in part that in none of his poems is Vondel's peculiar ardour of feeling combined with so much of sanity and humour, so free from pedantry and the note of overstrained ecstasy which one may detect in his as in Crashaw's religious poetry.
But making allowance for this strain, the intensity of the satirical poems is only heightened and purifiedReligion. in the best of Vondel's religious poems. Such are, leaving the tragedies aside, the beautiful dedication to the Virgin of the Brieven der Heilige Maeghden, the De Koningklyke Harp,—a rhapsody on the Psalms of David,—and the best of the consolatory Lykklachten. Even in reading the longer didactic poems, though there is in them much that is hardly suitable for poetry, one is amazed by the poet's unflagging ardour, the range of his study, and the fertility of his thought.
The tenderness of Vondel's feeling is as marked as its ardour. He has written of nature with delicacy and freshness in his Wiltzang, Lantghezang, and other lyrics and choruses, including the stately flowing
Sorrow. Rynstroom, The Dutch poets played a little with the usual pastoral convention, but the sincerity of their feeling for nature as they saw it around them is as clear from their poems as from their pictures. An intenser tenderness animates the few poems in which Vondel wrote of his private sorrows, notably the Uitvaert van mijn Dochterken (1633), so modern in its simplicity and discarding of seventeenth-century conventions, so artistic in its evolution and metre. It is difficult to imagine an English or French poet of the period describing a child's games without mythology or periphrasis or conceit, as Vondel ventured to do:—
"Or followed by her friends, a lusty troop,
Trundled her hoop
Along the street, or swung shouting with glee,
Or dandled on her knee
Her doll with graver airs,
Foretaste of woman's cares."
In the similar poem which he wrote thirty years later, on the death of his grandchild, sorrow yields to a lofty strain of devout resignation—
"When this our life on earth hath ended,
Begins an endless life above;
A life of God and angels tended.
His gift to those that earn His love."
Ardour, elevation, tenderness, music, these are the great qualities of Vondel's poetry, and they place him, in spite of defects which will appear more clearly when we come to speak of his drama, at the head of Dutch poets.
The poets of whom we have spoken hitherto belong all more or less closely to the Amsterdam circle of Outside
Amsterdam. which the "Oude Kamer" was the general, Hooft's residence the more select, centre. Of lesser lights, such as Anna and Tesselschade Visscher, it is impossible to speak here. Outside Amsterdam there were of course other chambers, centres of dramatic and poetic activity. Zeeland was "a nest of singing-birds." The Zeeuwsche Nachtegaal, published at Middelburg in 1623, contained poems "door verscheyden treffelicke Zeeuwsche Poeten." And the song-books mentioned earlier are but some of many which were issued, and not in Amsterdam alone.
The most distinguished, if not the most popular, of the poets not connected with Amsterdam is the poet and statesman of The Hague, Constantijn Huyghens (1596-1687), the famous father of a more famous son. French was the language of the Court, and Huyghens, who was all his life in the active service of the House of Orange, as well as one of the most cultured men of his day, was almost as prolific a composer in French and Latin as in Dutch. He tried his hand, like Milton, at Italian verses, and he translated from Guarini and Marino, as well as some thirteen hundred Spanish proverbs and about twenty of Donne's songs and elegies. Huyghens visited England three or four times in the service of his country, was knighted by James, and seems to have seen something of English men of letters at the house of Sir Robert Killigrew.
For his courtly and politer poetry Huyghens used French by preference. His French poems are quite in the affected, Marinistic, complimentary vein of the day. In Dutch his tone becomes more homely, his style more masculine,—not without affectations, but affectations which recall Jonson and Donne rather than Marino. He used his native language to correspond in playful and delightful verses with intimate friends, such as Hooft and Tesselschade Visscher, and to compose epigrams and longer poems of a satiric, didactic, and reflective character. The Otia (1625) included poems in various languages. In the Koren-bloemen (flowers gathered from among the grain of a busy life), published towards the close of his long life (1672), he collected his Dutch poems alone in twenty-seven books. Of these, fifteen contain epigrams (Sneldichten), one translations, two lighter lyrics and epistles. The longer poems include 't Kostelyck Mal (1622), a satire on the dress of the day in the usual Alexandrines; 't Voorhout (1621), a fresh and sparkling eulogy of the forest outside The Hague, written in stanzas of eight trochaic dimeters, catalectic and acatalectic, and rhyming alternately; Dagh-Werck, an unfinished description of a day in his life, in the same metre, but one of the most affected and obscure in style of his poems; Euphrasia of Ooghen-Troost (1647); Hofwyck (1652); and Zeestraet (1672),—all moralising, chatty poems, called forth by incidents in his life, as a lady friend's losing her eye, the building of a "Buitenplaats" or country-house, the construction of the road from The Hague to Schevening. A poem in the same key, a survey of his life written in the evening of his days, Cluyswerck, was printed by Jonckbloet in 1841, and did much to revive interest in Huyghens, Potgieter, the poet and critic, making it the occasion of an enthusiastic appreciation.
Huyghens has neither the ardour and tenderness of Vondel nor the artistic instinct of Hooft. He could only be called the first metrist among his contemporaries if Praed were allowed the same distinction among his. Huyghens' more playful verses are exceedingly clever:—
Die dit praedtge
Uit mijn hert
En van binnen
Uit het spinnen
Van mijn sinnen
But Vondel does the same thing with more feeling in Kinderlyck beginning—
't Zalig kijndje
Uitlacht met een lodderoog."
And Huyghens has none of the grander music of Vondel, nor the charming Ronsardist strain of Hooft.
Huyghens is a poetic moralist. His poems are as occasional as Vondel's, but the occasion is generally personal, and he uses it to talk at large about himself, his work, his enjoyment of nature, of music, of books, and domestic life, and to moralise in a satirical or more elevated and pious strain. At times he sinks almost to the level of Cats in his homely didactic prattle, but usually his outlook is less bourgeois and popular, his knowledge of humanity finer, and his poems better seasoned with wit and humour. His style is, in some works especially, harsh and obscure. Donne has been made responsible for this defect, but Mr Eymael has shown that Huyghens had probably not read Donne's poems before 1630, when his own style was formed and beginning to grow simpler; and indeed the resemblance is very superficial between Donne's subtle mind and bizarre imagination and the fundamental simplicity of Huyghens' character. In poetry such as Huyghens' much depends upon the personality of the author, and it is the simplicity and freshness of his nature, combined with wide culture, insight, and a noble piety, which made Potgieter call him "one of the most lovable men that ever lived."
Huyghens' friend, the first of Zeeland poets, and for long the most popular of Dutch poets, Jacob CatsCats. (1577-1660), is a difficult author for a foreigner to appreciate. He is the incarnation of all that is most bourgeois and practical in the Dutch character. He was, like Huyghens, a man of means. He grew rich by reclaiming "polders" from the sea, and was a sharp—at times, Huyghens affirmed, too sharp—business man. He acknowledges that—
"Het is een deftigh [difficult] werk en waert te zijn gepresen
Godtzalig en met een oock rijck te mogen wezen."
Cats was a learned man, and served his country as Raedpensionaris, visiting England twice as an ambassador. Like Huyghens, he was an ardent Calvinist, and had come under the influence of English "pietism," which had taken root in Zeeland.
Cats was a voluminous poet. Beginning with Emblems,—all the Dutch poets wrote Emblems,—he poured forth poems in a didactic strain, and written in a monotonous Alexandrine couplet, of which the best known are Houwelick (1625) and 's Werelts Begin, Midden, Eynde besloten in den Trou-ring (1634). He is as profoundly interested in the subject of marriage as Coventry Patmore; but if the latter occasionally approaches Cats in his descent to homely details, Cats has none of Patmore's delicacy of feeling and soaring flights. Practical advice, enforced by diffusely narrated stories—not always of the chastest, for as the moral is coming to set all right, why omit piquant details?—prattle about himself, these are the staple of Cats' poems. His language is pure, and many of his proverbial sayings have passed into current use, but his work is of interest for the student of national thought and morality rather than of literature.
There is much greater depth of feeling and music of verse in the Stichtelyke Rymen of another religiousCamphuysen. poet, Dirk Rafaelsz Camphuysen (1586-1627). Born at Gorkum, educated at Leyden, a teacher for some time at Utrecht, he became a "predikant," and was for a short time an exceedingly popular preacher in Vleuten. But his sympathies were too liberal. He was turned out as an Arminian, and led a wandering and troubled life till his death at Dokkum, where he had worked as a flax-spinner. Camphuysen's poems are all religious, and include a paraphrase of the Psalms. His aim is like Cats', "te stichten en met een vermaken," to edify while pleasing; but his religion was of the more inward and finer type of our own Herbert's and Vaughan's, though he expresses his feelings in a less conceited style and in simpler melody. His poems are written to be sung as well as read: "Zoo wel leezelijk als zingelijk, zoo wel zingelijk als leezelijk," are his own words. His Maysche Morgenstond, a beautiful song of returning spring, and the Christelijk Gevecht, are the best known of his poems to-day, but they are not the only ones in which feeling and melody are both alike arresting, and void of conceit or convention as his art is, it is by no means naïve. Witness the structure of such a verse as this:—
"Hoe lang, ach Heer!
Hoe lang noch mist mijn ziel den zoeten stand
Van 'twaar verheugen!
Wanneer zal ik eens 'teeuwig vaderland
Jeruzalem des hoogsten Konings stad
Des deugd-betrachters hoop en hartenschat
Die u maar kend is licht des levens zat
Te lang, te lang valt bang!"
This power of writing flowing musical verse echoing each mood of feeling belongs to another religious poet, the Catholic Johannes Stalpert van der Wiele, by Van Vloten, K. L. Pantheon, 1865. The first critic to do justice to Van der Wiele was J. A. Alberdingk Thijm.</ref> (1579-1630). Of noble parentage, born in TheVan der Wiele. Hague, for a short time an advocate in that city, Stalpert van der Wiele soon abandoned the world for the Church, and after studying divinity at Louvain was ordained deacon at Malines. He was at Brussels for some time, and visited Paris and Rome, but his ultimate sphere of duty was in Delft, Rotterdam, and Schiedam. His poems, issued at Delft, Hertogenbosch, and Antwerp, were written for the edification of his Catholic flock. The longer are mostly legends of saints and martyrs. Hemelryck (1621) tells in flowing Alexandrines how the persecuting Adrian of Nicomedia was converted by the description which the martyrs gave him of the joys of heaven. Others deal with the martyrdom of Laurence and Hippolytus, St Agnes' denunciation of gorgeous clothing, and the points at issue between Rome and Calvin. But Stalpert van der Wiele's best-known and best poems are the religious songs he wrote to old and frequently secular airs. Den Schat der geestelijcke Lofsangen, gemaeckt op de feest-daegen van 'tgeheele jaer (1634), is a Roman Christian Year. Of the deeper thought and more elaborate art of Keble there is as little in Van der Wiele's songs as of the conceits, quaint or imaginative, of our seventeenth-century devotional poets. His songs are written for the people, and express the simplest Catholic piety with the naturalness and music of the folk-songs on which they are based, and have enjoyed, Alberdingk Thijm says, the fate of such songs—to be printed in various collections without the collector or printer knowing by whom they were composed.
It is impossible here to do more than mention the names of some of the poets of the second generation,Followers of
Hooft. the followers and imitators of Hooft and Vondel. The pastoral and mythological conventions were generally rather clumsily handled in the song-books. The patriotic and laureate lyrics, into which Vondel put so much music and colour, were essayed with no great success by Reyer Ansloo (1626-1669) and Gheeraerdt Brandt (1626-1685), more famous as a historian and biographer, whose Uitvaert van Hugo Groot and similar poems have a fair measure of rhetorical vigour; Joachim Oudaen (1628-1692); Johannes Vollenhove (1631-1708), whom Vondel called his son; and Johannes Antonides van der Goes (1647-1684), whose Ystroom is the most ambitious of these Vondelian pieces. But it needed all the ardour of Vondel's lyrical temperament to give vitality and interest to these long poems with their blend of matter-of-fact details and pedantic mythology.
The last poet whose verses have the naturalnessLuiken. and music of the best Dutch lyrical poetry was a disciple of Hooft rather than Vondel. In Jan Luiken's Duytse Lier (1672) ends that lyrical stream which, beginning in the Middle Ages, preserved in the folk-songs of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries rather than in the "rijmelarij" of the "Rederijkers," was by Hooft and Vondel purified, deepened, and enlarged. Born in Amsterdam in 1649, Luiken was trained as an etcher, and wrote his love-songs while a young man. At the age of twenty-six he became a pious and mystical Christian, and his later works, Het Leerzaam Huisraad, Byekorf des Gemoeds, d'Onwaerdige Wereld, are written in a didactic strain, lightened by occasional flashes of his purer lyrical gift. But the Duytse Lier contains the finest love-songs after Hooft's. Luiken reproduces some of Hooft's metres, especially his iambic quatrains and the "Galatea" stanza quoted above; but he has many of his own, light and musical. He was the only Dutch poet who learnt from Hooft the secret of that fresh and charming artifice which the latter, and so many others, were taught by Ronsard—
"De dageraat begint te blinken
De Roosjes zijn aan't open gaan;
De Nucht're Zon komt peerlen drinken,
De zuyde wind speelt met de blaan:
Het Nachtegaaltjen fluyt,
En't Schaapje scheert het kruyt;
Is een gemoet,
Met zulk een vreugd gevoet."
With such music the great period in Dutch poetry ended, and the lyrical began to give way, as elsewhere, to the prosaic and rhetorical. To a comparatively small country like Holland the use of Latin as an international language of scholarshipLatin Prose. was an even more obvious convenience than to larger countries. The most distinguished Hollander of the Renaissance, Erasmus, is not thought of as a Dutch author, and the same is true, in a somewhat less degree, of several notable Dutchmen of the seventeenth century, distinguished not only by their learning but by their contributions to the belles lettres of humanism, such as Daniel Heinsius, Isaac Vossius, and Hugo Grotius. Both Heinsius and Grotius wrote some poems in their native tongue, but their fame rests on their Latin lyrics and tragedies, and still more securely on the treatises of the former on criticism, of the latter on international law. Grotius, indeed, was one of the great men of the century, and were this primarily a history of thought and scholarship would require specially full treatment. In the present chapter he must yield to those who cultivated their native tongue.
The principal writer of artistic prose in the earlier seventeenth century—the successor of Coornhert in theDutch—Hooft. modelling of Dutch upon Latin prose—was Hooft. To the writing of prose Hooft brought all, and more than all, the careful study and elaborate art which he bestowed upon his poems. Some of his letters to his friends show that he could write in a simple and playful style, though in general they, too, smell of the lamp. But the stately Muse of History was to be served in the seventeenth century only in costly, brocaded robes. Hooft's model was Tacitus. Virgil he accounted, Brandt tells us, the first of Latin poets, Tacitus of historians and prose-writers. He had read his works fifty-two times, and had made at different periods of his life a complete translation of them. Following in the footsteps of his master, he prepared for his greater task by composing a Leven van Hendrik den Groote (1626), for which he was ennobled by Louis XI., and the Rampzaaligheden der Verheffinge van den Huize van Medicis (1649).
While he was thus elaborating his style, he was also gathering materials for his great work on the liberation of Holland. He spared no pains to arrive at the truth, and submitted the work as it proceeded to friends to be criticised. For the military portions especially he sought the help of qualified persons; and he endeavoured above all things to be just—to acknowledge the shortcomings of his countrymen and the virtues of the foe. The misfortune attending this elaboration is that the work was never finished, and that an unnecessary degree of artificiality was given to the style. The imaginary speeches delivered on critical occasions, after the manner of Thucydides and Tacitus, are the chief blots in the eye of a modern critic; but to a native ear Hooft's coinages—the result of his zeal for the purification of the language from words of French origin, his occasional harsh and too condensed constructions, his Latin idiom and sentence order—are more obvious. But these are flaws in a dignified and impressive narrative. It is impossible to read any of the greater episodes without recognising and admiring the vigour, the compression, the loftiness, and the fire with which Hooft tells his moving story. His deep interest in the events he narrates recalls Clarendon, but he is not so constantly the advocate of one side; and the condensation of his style and his frequent felicitous figures are more in the manner of Bacon in the Henry VII., although he has not the same detached interest in Macchiavelian kingcraft. A figure like that which follows is quite in Bacon's style: "But these considerations weighed little with that oppressor who had already set his heart upon the desolating of cities, the stamping out of liberty, and the confiscation of property. 'I have ere this,' said he, 'tamed a people of iron, and shall I not now be able to tame a people of butter?' For he did not bethink him that hard metal may be hammered, but not soft curd, which he that would handle must deal gently withal." And the following might have come out of the essay Of Dissimulation: "Sparing of words indeed was this Prince, and wont to say that no craft of concealment can cover his steps that lets himself be taken a-prattling."
Of other prose work in the period there is not much to say. Attempts to imitate the French pastoral andBrandt. heroic romance were unsuccessful. Hooft's dignified historical prose was most successfully cultivated by Gheeraert Brandt, whose poetry has been mentioned. The son of a watchmaker in Amsterdam, whose family, like Vondel's, came from Antwerp, Brandt was at seventeen the author of a tragedy, and at twenty he composed a funeral oration on the death of Hooft, which was recited by an actor in the theatre and received with immense applause. As a fact, the speech was simply a translation of Du Perron's Oraison Funèbre for Ronsard. Later, when he had left watchmaking and become a Predikant, he composed his Historie van de Reformatie (1668-74), the second part of which, dealing with the Arminian controversy, provoked the bitter hostility of the Calvinists. He composed short and sympathetic biographies of Hooft and Vondel for editions of their works, and a Leven van de Ruiter (1687), which is the finest example of his prose.
Brandt's model is quite clearly the dignified prose of Hooft with its elaborate periods. "The perception of this," he begins his Life of Van Ruiter, "and the utility for the state involved, has moved me to devote some of my hours to the description of his praiseworthy life and valiant achievements, with the firm purpose in this work, which may God bless, of confining myself strictly within the bounds prescribed by the supreme law for historians, and, in the service of truth alone, of narrating as well the errors of friends as the praise of enemies; ever bearing in mind that I write not of olden times whose memory has grown dim, but of things that happened but yesterday, and, as it were, under the eyes of many who took part in them, assisting or being present, friends and strangers, who without doubt should I, in this wide sea of manifold events, wander from the course of truth, misled by favour or hatred, would punish me and expose me to shame." Brandt's diction, however, is simpler than Hooft's, his style generally clearer, and at its best not less vivid and impressive. A lighter and more conversational prose was developed by Van Effen under French and English influence.
- Jonckbloet's Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkcunde (4th ed., 1889, C. Honigh), an epoch-making work, is still the fullest history of Dutch literature. The arrangement is at times confusing, and much work has been done since. Penon's Nederlandsche Dicht-en-Proza-werken, 1886, forms a companion set of volumes to Jonckbloet's Geschiedenis, and contains carefully edited texts, but not always of the works one would most wish to have. A popular sketch is Jan ten Brink's Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkunde, 1897. A very interesting sketch, from a Catholic point of view, is the late J. A. Alberdingk Thijm's De la Littérature néerlandaise à ses Différentes Epoques, 1854. Of the earlier literature a condensed and learned sketch by Professor Te Winkel is contained in Paul's Grundriss der Deutschen Philologie, 1900. Delightfully written and indispensable works by Professor Kalff are Nederlandsche Letterkunde in de XVIde Eeuw, Brill, n.d.; Literatuur en Tooneel te Amsterdam in de Zeventiende Eeuw, Haarlem, 1895,—biographical and critical sketches of Hooft, Vondel, Cats, Huyghens, &c. The first volume of a history of Dutch literature in eight volumes by the same writer has appeared, Groningen, 1905. Busken-Huet's brilliant Het Land van Rembrandt and Litterarische Fantasien are well worth reading. The work of many scholars is contained in De Gids, the great literary periodical founded in 1837. Excellently annotated seventeenth-century texts—and the language presents difficulties which require elucidation—have been issued in the Nederlandsche Klassieken, general editor Dr Eelco Verwys, Versluys, Amsterdam, and the Klassiek Letterkundig Pantheon, W. J. Thieme & Co., Zutphen. An interesting and representative though small Anthology is Professor Kalff's Dichters van den Ouden Tijd, Amsterdam, n.d. English works are some essays in Gosse's Studies in the Literature of Northern Europe, Lond., 1879, and the same writer's article in the Encyclopædia Britannica; Bowring and Van Dyk's Batavian Anthology, Lond., 1824; Longfellow's Poets and Poetry of Europe, Philadelphia, 1849; an article in the Foreign Quarterly Review, 1829.
- The twentieth branch, Le Plaid, of the Roman du Renart, ed. Meon and Chabaille. See Jonckbloet's Geschied, i. xii.
- Vide Jonckbloet, Geschiedenis, ii.; Kalff, XVIde Eeuw, i.; also van Duyse and Potter, History of the Chambers of Rhetoric.
- Refereinen van Anna Bijns, uitg. Bogaers en van Helten, 1875. Nieuwe Refereinen van A. B., uitg. Jonckbloet en van Helten, 1880. Nieuwe Refereinen, Gent, 1886. On her life see Jonckbloet (Geschiedenis, &c., ii. 6), who takes very literally her expressions of remorse, and Kalff (XVIde Eeuw), who qualifies Jonckbloet's account.
- See Kalff's XVIde Eeuw, ii. 270, aud works cited there, including Motley's Rise of the Dutch Republic.
- See Kalff, XVIde Eeuw, pp. 295-368, and Penon's Nederl. Dichten-Proza-werken, iii.
- Its motto was In liefde bloeyende (blossoming in love), in reference primarily to the Cross, which in an old engraving of the chamber's full coat-of-arms is represented breaking into flower. The blazon was presented to the chambers by Charles V.
- Gedichten, ed. F. A. Stoett, Amsterdam, 1899. For appreciations see Busken-Huet's brilliant article, Hooft's Poezie, in his Litterariache Fantasien, and Kalff's Hooft's Lyrick, Haarlem, 1901. Stoett's edition has an interesting appendix on the airs to which Hooft's songs were written.
- De Werken van G. A. Brederoo, Amst., 1890, in three volumes, with a preface by Dr Kalff, and the poems and different plays edited with notes and introductions by Kalff, Ten Brink, Moltzer, Te Winkel, &c. See also Ten Brink's Gerbrand Adriaensz Brederoo, Utrecht, 1858, and the Brederoo Album, a special number of Oud-Holland issued for the tercentenary of Brederoo's birth in 1885. An excellent edition of De Spaenschen Brabander in the Nederlandsche Klassicken.
- "Arent Pieter Gysen, with Mieuwes, Jaap, &e., went all together out to the village of Vinckeveen; for old Frana gave his geese to be ridden off." This barbarous sport consisted in riding under a live goose hung on a line by the feet, and pulling off its head in passing. It might be done from a punt carried swiftly under the rope stretched across the stream. Brederoo's poem has all the phases presented in Christ's Kirk on the Green and similar popular poems—the gathering in the morning, the jollification, the quarrel, and the dispersion. Wangt, Frangs, gangs for want, Frans and gans, are due to the Amsterdam pronunciation.
- De Friesche Lusthof was republished in 1864. There is a Bloemlezing (anthology), ed. by Dr C. H. P. Meier, in the Klassick Letterkundig Pantheon.
- Dodsley's Old English Plays, vol. ix.
- De Werken van Joost van den Vondel uitgegeven door Mr J. van Lennep, Herzien en bijgewerkt door J. H. W, Unger, Leiden, n.d., in thirty volumes. All the works are arranged in chronological order, and there are illustrations, notes, and interesting reprints of contemporary replies to Vondel's satires. The oldest life is Brandt's Leven van Vondel, 1683. Kalff's Vondel's Leven, 1902, is an interesting study of the man. A. Fischel: The Life and the Writings of J. v. d. Vondel, 1854, I have not seen. Most of his tragedies and the satires have been edited in the two series mentioned above.
- Gedichten, ed. Dr J. A. Worp, in nine volumes. All the poems, Latin, French, Dutch, &c., are arranged in chronological order. Huyghens' own arrangement is preserved in the Pantheon edition of the Korenbloemen, edited by Dr J. van Vloten, and revised in parts by H. J. Eymael and J. Heinsius. Much has been written of late on Huyghens as man and poet by Potgieter, Jonckbloet, Kalff, Eymael, and others.
- One of Huyghens' poems has some of the combined intensity and homeliness of Vondel's satires, namely, Scheeps-Praat (Ship's Talk) on the death of Prince Maurice, the stout "schipper zonder weerga," which tells how Frederick Henry rebuked the disconsolate sailors, reminding them that he too was an experienced pilot—
"North and South too many an hour
I've by the skipper held the wheel;
Seen too many a hissing shower
O'er my old sou'-wester reel."
- Many old and handsome editions, with finely-engraved emblems and illustrations. Most of his works have been republished in the Pantheon. Cats' long-established reputation as the most popular and edifying of Dutch poets was assailed by Potgieter in his Rijks-Museum, 1844. He was followed by Busken-Huet in De Gids, 1863, who made great sport of the "God-fearing money-maker and his low-toned morality." Jonckbloet was more judicial but equally severe. Cats has been defended by Dr A. Kuyper—recently Prime Minister of Holland—in Het Kalvinisme en de Kunst, 1888. All that can be said for Cats as a poet by a discriminating critic will be found in Professor Kalff's Jacob Cats, Haarlem, 1901.
- See Kalff's Camphuysen Herdacht, 1901. A selection edited by Van Vloten is included in the Pantheon.
- Leven en Uitgelezen Dichten
- Extracts from Ansloo, Brandt, &c., in Penon, op. cit., iv.
- Duitsche Lier opnieuw uitgegeven door Dr Maurits Sabbe, K. L. Pantheon.