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Intermediate level: cycle 4
Voorbeeld 15 ~ Example 15

Dichtkunst ~ Poetry |}

Vondel, Tollens, Van Duyse

Vondel (1587-1679) edit

Joost van den Vondel is to Dutch literature what Shakespeare is to the English one: the Grand Old Master, who wrote magnificent dramatic plays, but whose language is not always easy to understand. The orthography of the 17th century has some remarkable similarities with English, e.g. the use of -ck- (ick) instead of -k- (ik) or the use of -gh- (ooghen) instead of -g- (ogen) for the guttural spirant. In English it still occurs in word like laugh, though or nigh although it has either gone mute or been replaced by [f]. Of course there are also more case endings in his language than there are today

In 1632 Van den Vondel had to witness the death of his little son Constantijn and he wrote a famous poem about it. At the end of his 91 year long life he had outlived all but one grandson.

Joost van den Vondel 1665

Constantijntje, 't zaligh kijntje
Cherubijntje, van om hoogh,
D'ydelheden, hier beneden,
Vitlacht met een lodderoogh.
Moeder, zeit hy, waarom schreit ghy?
Waarom greit ghy, op mijn lijck?
Boven leef ick, boven zweef ick,
Engeltje van 't hemelrijck:
En ick blinck 'er, en ick drincker,
't Geen de schincker alles goets
Schenckt de zielen, die daar krielen,
Dertel van veel overvloets.
Leer dan reizen met gepeizen
Naar pallaizen, uit het slick
Dezer werrelt, die zoo dwerrelt.
Eeuwigh gaat voor oogenblick.
Translation • Example 15 • Vondel
Little Constantine, the blessed babe
Little cherubs, down from on high
laughs at the vanities down here
with a friendly eye
Mother, he says, why do you weep
why do you cry on my body?
Up here I live, up here I float
Little angel of the realm of heaven
And I shine there and I drink there
what the giver of all good
pours for the souls that swarm there
frolicking for sheer abundance
Learn to travel then with thoughtfulness
to palaces, out of the mud
of this world that is so troubled
Eternity goes before the moment.

Tollens (1780-1856) edit

Tollens's parents came from Gent, but he grew up in Holland and joined a paint company founded there by Johannes Jodocus Tollens in 1748. As a poet he was much admired in his day, including in Flanders as we shall seen below. He wrote mostly about the beauty and virtue of ordinary family life and about loyalty and love for God an country. In the 1880's a new generation of poets -to which e.g. Gorter belonged- would find fault with the very conservative state that Dutch literature had fallen into. Although Tollens was long dead by then, he became one of the prime targets of their scorn. So much so that it took to our own days for the poet to become judged by his own merits again, rather then through the eyes of the Tachtigers as they were called.

Tollens wrote many rather lengthy poems, but in this short one he revisits the same issue as Vondel did two centuries before and his version shows remarkable parallels with Vondel's poem.


't Kruipend rupsje, moe gekropen,
Mat getobd in de enge cel,
Brak zijn kluisje fladdrend open,
Klapwiekte uit zijn dorre schel.
Zie, daar wiegt het, zie, daar zweeft het,
Logger drang en druk ontvlugt;
Hooger vliegt het, hooger leeft het,
Zat gespeeld in lager lucht.
Voedster, droog de natte wangen,
Tuur niet op de doode pop,
Blijf niet aan zijn webje hangen:
't Vlindertje is niet weer te vangen:
's Hemels englen vingen 't op.
Translation • Example 15 • Tollens
The crawling little caterpillar exhausted from its crawling
Worried to resignation in the narrow cell
broke open its little vault in a flutter
clapping its wings flew out of its wilted peel
See, there is sways, there it floats
escaped from unwieldy stress and pressure
Higher it flies, higher it lives
Tired of playing in lower air
Wetnurse, dry the wet cheeks
do not stare at the dead pupa
do not be trapped in its little web
the little butterfly cannot be caught again
Heaven's angels took it up.

Prudens Van Duyse (1804-1859) edit

Prudence Van Duyse was an important figure is the Vlaamse Beweging, the movement in Flanders that resisted the pressure to squeeze out the Dutch language and its Flemish dialects in favor of everything French. He wrote much of better days that Flanders had seen, particularly its heighday in 1304 when it thwarted the French king's attempts to gain greater control over Flanders in a pitched battle against French nobility. For Tollens however, Van Duyse had nothing but praise, that he expressed in a pretty lengthy poem of which we show one stanza here.

Prudens van Duyse

Aen Tollens
Kunstschilder van het huislik leven,
Bard van den nederlandschen roem,
Bevoorrecht Batavier[1], 't geluk werd u gegeven,
Dat lentefrischeid van 't vernuft uw oudte ombloem'; -
Dat gy, naest de uwen nêergezeten,
God eert in zyner schepslen keten,
En van naby zyn glans, met biddend hart, bespiedt,
Die zich in Oceaen en waterdrop weêrspiegelt.
Heil u! waer gy eens werd gewiegeld,
Leeft, als in Vlaenderland, uw lied.
Translation • Example 15 • To Tollens
Painter of domestic life
Bard of Dutch fame
Privileged Batavian, fortune was given to you
May the freshness of spring of the mind adorn your old age as with flowers
That you, sitting besides your people
honor God in the chain of his creatures
and from up close behold his gloss with praying heart
that reflects itself in ocean and drop of water
Hail to you! Where you were once cradles
Lives, as in the land of Flanders, your song.

Appendix edit

  1. The Batavii were a tribe that the Roman found living in the region between the great rivers. During the French revolution the Republic of the Netherlands toppled the old regime and the House of Orange went into exile, the Republic was renamed the Batavian Republic. So, Batavian is a nickname for Dutchman