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13 January, 2012
The Interdependence of Literature|
by Curtis, Georgina Pell
|Erasmus said of Ghent at the end of the fifteenth century that
there was no city in Europe that could compare with it in
greatness, power, and the cultivation of its people. The lays of
the minstrels and the chivalric romances of other nations were
translated into Dutch. In the middle of the thirteenth century
Reynard the Fox was rendered into the same language, while this
era also saw a translation of the Bible made into Flemish rhyme.
The close of the fourteenth century saw the rise of some
wandering poets called Sprekers, who visited the courts of Kings
and Princes and became so popular that in the fifteenth century
they were federated into different societies that became known as
"Chambers of Rhetoric," somewhat similar to the German Guilds of
the Meistersingers. These societies spread rapidly through the
country, and from rhyme the members passed to the mystery plays,
and to the beginnings of the drama.
The Court of Burgundy in the fifteenth century brought a strong
French element into the literature of the Dutch nation, and the
poets and chroniclers of that age are chiefly Flemish.
The taste for Greek and Latin was introduced into Holland in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by Erasmus and Grotius, the two
most learned men among the Dutch literati of their age.
Hooft in the seventeenth century made an extensive study of
Italian poetry, and succeeded in imparting to his tragic and
lyric verse a certain quality of sweetness and volume which it
has since retained. His style, which also embraces tragedy, has
been extensively imitated by his own countrymen.
Nearly the whole of the eighteenth century passed without any
advancement in Dutch literature. The country experienced the
French influence, in common with the rest of Europe; and French
works and translations abounded. Toward the close of this century
German taste began to predominate, and a young Dutchman, Van
Effen, founded a magazine in French, called the "Spectator,"
which was in imitation of, and on the same lines as the English
magazine of the same name. Many native writers arose at this time
and gained distinction in poetry, prose and the drama; but the
overthrow of the Dutch Republic, and the confusion attending it,
for a time extinguished the national literature, and the
beginning of the nineteenth century saw the country flooded with
poor translations of foreign books, and all the noble national
literature was forgotten. This evil was partly remedied in the
latter part of the nineteenth century; but as a whole, the Dutch
literature, while it has been influenced by foreign taste, has
had little or no weight outside of its own nation, and has not in
any way shaped the literature of other peoples.