Netherlands Literature: From The Thirteenth to The Seventeenth Century

Netherlands Literature - From The Thirteenth to The Seventeenth Century

Since the fourteenth century, the characteristics of a Dutch literature can be found, connected with historical development and with the formation and consolidation of a particular national mentality. In the more distant Middle Ages Flemishliterature (see also Belgium, literature) is not easily distinguished from that of the northern Netherlands (currently Nederland or the Netherlands). The historical events of Flanders and Brabant, of the United Provinces and finally of the Netherlands explain how among peoples having in common language and culture the pre-eminence for its political and religious action (for Spain and Austria) was that which, from an important region, it was called Holland (under the influence of the French Hollande in the diplomatic language). The birth of a literature in the vernacular is closely linked to the rise of a new type of social life, no longer rural, but urban. The rise of the bourgeois class resulted in a secularization of literary themes. Bourgeois realism, which in Flemish literature produces that masterpiece of irony that is the epic Della Volpe Reinaerd and which stimulated Jacob van Maerlant (ca. 1235-1290 / 1300) to his didactic works, receives, with the entry of Holland, a further upgrade. Among the earliest literary documents of the Netherlands, at the end of the thirteenth century, the rhymed Chronicle of Holland by Melis Stoke should be remembered; among the first manifestations of artistic prose, on the other hand, the fairy tales should be mentionedby Dirc de Potter (1370-1428) to whom we owe the gnomic poem On the way of love, a kind of Ars amandi, inspired by a trip to Italy. The taste for edifying and philosophical works was replaced by the interest in moral affirmations (genre in which the lyric poet Willem van Hildegarsberch emerged) which established himself with the “recitation chambers” (meditative compositions), probably inspired by the thought of rhétoriqueurs who excelled in France and at the court of Brussels. A notable influence on the renewal of thought was exercised, at the end of the fifteenth century, by Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) and by the harbingers of the religious Reformation. Soon the cultural decadence of Flanders was countered by the flourishing of a new literature in the Northern Provinces, a refuge for all free spirits threatened by the Inquisition. To the work in Latin of Erasmus were added the writings in the vernacular of Dirk Volkertszoon Coornhert (1522-90) who with the work Ethics, that is the art of living well, contributed to the exaltation of the struggle against all forms of obscurantism and intolerance. With him herald the golden age Hendrik Spiegel (1549-1615), author of the first Dutch grammar and the poem Mirror of the heart, and Roemer Visscher (1547-1620) who published Emblemi. The golden age of Dutch literature is at the same time the reaffirmation that all Dutch art is imbued with a religious spirit, or perhaps more exactly with faith, with the exception of Pieter Cornelisz Hooft (1581-1647), who was highly attached to classical antiquity and the themes of Italian Renaissance poetics, rather than French. There is precise evidence of this in his pastoral Granida and in the sonnets. He should also be remembered for the Dutch Stories of Tacitian prose. The classic measure of this was contrasted by the naturalness and spontaneity of Gerbrand Adriaenszoon Bredero (1585-1618) who gave his best in the lyrics and in the spirited comedy The Spanish Brabant, rich in popular sentiment and linguistic mixes, where the dialect is inserted with the value of immediacy. Antithetical personalities are to be found in Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) and Jacob Cats (1577-1660), the great moralists of the century: the first lyricist with inclinations to marinism; spontaneous, popular, colorful the second, the author of rhymes that are a true painting of everyday life. In another sense, but close to Cats for spontaneity of expression, we must remember Jan Luiken (1649-1712) who commented on his etchings with didactic verses. Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) of Flemish origin but of national inspiration, according to thereligionfaqs, the greatest poet of the Netherlands, asserted himself above all. Family’s Mennonite, he fought the Reformed, accused of rigorism, and then passed to Catholicism in the demand for the unity of Europe. He wrote literary, religious and political satires and lyrics exuberant in the Baroque imaginative, but controlled by a classical sense. However, his fame is linked above all to two plays of the theater; Palamedes and Lucifer, the first political tragedy, which highlights the struggles of the Protestants between them, and the second biblical tragedy, on the theme of predestination and salvation. Jan Vos (1620-47), for his part, brought new energies to the theater with an inclination to show and to baroque artifices. The first signs of decline were felt around 1680. It is the age of pruikentijd wigs, the moment of imitation of the past, herald of an Arcadian abandonment.

Netherlands Literature - From The Thirteenth to The Seventeenth Century