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Intermediate level: cycle 3
Het Schrijverke ~ Whirligig beetle
|• Poetry of Gezelle|
Guido Gezelle (1830-1899)Edit
Guido Gezelle is seen as the greatest poet, author, translator and linguist of Flanders in the 19th century. He lived in a time when the Dutch language was under heavy pressure from French. This was the language of the elite of Belgium, a country that had claimed its independence from the Netherlands only in the year that Gezelle was born. The secession had been violent and protracted and had left many scars. There were many reasons for the split, some were religious: the south was solidly catholic, the north predominantly protestant, although its southern two provinces were not. Language had also played a role. Willem I the protestant king of the Netherlands had sought to impose Dutch as the national language. This was resented not only by the French speaking provinces of Wallonia but also the elite elsewhere, because they mostly spoke French.
Guido himself grew up speaking a dialect of West-Flanders but acquired no less than 15 other languages in his life. His aim was to combine his dialect with the long tradition of Dutch literature of both north and south before him. For many in the Netherlands what he produced was far too Belgian, for many in Belgium it was far too Dutch... Guido was a catholic priest and did find support from catholic writers in the north like Joseph Alberdingk Thijm from Amsterdam. Only later did the appreciation for his work grow more widely on both sides of the border.
In the following poem Guido demonstrates his love for language, nature and God all at once. It describes a small insect, the whirligig beetle (Gyrinus), that lives partly in the water and most visibly on top of it, where it whirls around as if endlessly writing something. In northern Dutch it is called een schrijvertje, a little scribe. This word is one of those diminutives that have developed their own meaning. In Gezelle's southern variety of the language all diminutives end in -ke(n), rather than -tje, so for him it was Het Schrijverke
There are about a dozen species of Gyrinus in the Low Countries and we do not know for sure which one Gezelle was looking at. Himself he mentions Gyrinus natans, but that is the name of a species long extinct. He probably meant Gyrinus natator or maybe Gyrinus susbstriatus.
Study the text of this poem and then go see this video in which it is sung by the Flemish singer Will Ferdy.
As you will see in the text Gezelle's language differs from northern usage on a number of points
- Diminutives end in -ke(n)
- He uses the pronoun gij and its verb forms: gij zijt (you are) gij waart (you were) and its possessive uw and some of its inflected forms like uwen.
- There are remnants of the double negation Middle Dutch had: Ik en weet niet. instead of Ik weet niet.
- Another Middle Dutch remnant is to put the adjective behind the noun: 't water klaar (the clear water)
- Some words have different forms or meanings: géren = gaarne (with pleasure); spegel = spiegel (mirror), bladtjes en blomkes = blaadjes en bloempjes (little leaves and flowers), zo(o) zeer (so rapidly, not: so terribly), wink(e)len (to make corners; in the north it means to shop..).
- There are some words simply not known in the north: kabotseken (little hood), kapoteken (little mantle)
|flink||sturdy, with gusto|
|verroeren||to move, stir|
|beduiden||to mean, signify|
|de kelk||calyx, chalice|
|het gewelf||firmament; vault|
|stellen||to pose, put, make stand|
|rechten||to right, erect|
|de stonde||hour, time|
The vocabulary can be practiced at Quizlet (30 terms). Note that the vocabulary pertains to the forms in northern standard usage, not Gezelle's variety of Dutch. Some words like nimmer and stonde are poetic rather than colloquial.
Cumulative term count
- Beginner level 1053
- Les 9 27
- Les 9A 81
- Ex. 9 31
- Total number of terms 1192