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Patriotic poetry and verse : Dutch

  • Literature (poetry/verse)Dutch
  • Cultural Field:
    Texts and stories
  • Author:
    Jensen, Lotte
  • Text:

    From 1780, Dutch patriotic poetry and verse increased significantly. As a response to the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-84), and the general economical and moral decline patriotic poems and songs celebrating the fatherland were produced in increasing quantities; the Batavian Republic, proclaimed under French tutelage in 1795, saw much national ancestry-worship in narrative poetry. Cornelis Loots, for instance published heroic poems such as De overwinning der Nederlanders bij Chattam (1799) and De volkswoede, toegezongen aan de nagedachtenis van de gebroeders De Witt (1802).

    The celebratory tone waned as Napoleon’s influence grew. During the French reign (1806-13) national-historical themes of the so called “resistance poets” had an anti-French national drift: Adriaan Loosjes (De laatste zeetogt van den admiraal De Ruiter, 1812), again Loots (De Hollandsche taal, 1810), and the work of Loots’s brother-in-law J.F. Helmers and of Hendrik Tollens.

    During the first years of the reign of King William I, who was installed in 1815, most patriotic poetry was written in his honour. Willem  Bilderdijk, who during the French regime had supported King Louis Napoleon, now celebrated Dutch independence in Hollands verlossing (“Holland’s liberation”, 1813) and Vaderlandsche uitboezemingen (“National effusions”, 1815). A new national anthem was written by Tollens, Wien Neêrlandsch bloed in de aders vloeit (“Those of Netherlandic blood”, 1817). Tollens would also become the champion of domestic poetry (huiselijkheidspoëzie), in which homeliness was depicted as the primary characteristic of the Dutch.

    The Belgian Secession (1830-39) gave a new impetus to Dutch patriotic poetry. A considerable amount was dedicated to the naval officer Jan van Speyk, who fell in the port of Antwerp in 1831 (e.g., once again, Cornelis Loots, Bij den vrijwilligen heldendood van Van Speyk, 1831); the episode also inspired many playwrights and painters.

    In the late 1830s and 1840s patriotic poetry and verse gradually became subject to criticism. Liberals around the periodical De gids (founded in 1837), criticized the hackneyed pathos and exaggerated chauvinism of contemporary poets, and argued for a more profound and thoughtful way of expressing patriotism. E.J. Potgieter, one of the founders of De gids, used the heroic past as a means to criticize present-day moral and social decline. Besides many patriotic poems he also published a collection of Romantic songs about the voyages of exploration of the 17th-century captain Willem Ysbrants Bontekoe (1840). A broader reading public was successfully and enduringly addressed in Jac.P. Heije’s national folk-songs and children’s songs (1861, 1865).

    Word Count: 393

  • Article version:
  • DOI:
  • Berg, Willem van den (1999). “Verbeelding van het vaderland: Het denken over het vaderland in de letterkunde van de eerste decennia van de negentiende eeuw”, in Sas, N.C.F. van (ed.) (1999). Vaderland: Een geschiedenis van de vijftiende eeuw tot 1940 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP) [Fatherland: A history from the 15th century until 1940], 309-342 [Imagining the fatherland: Thinking about the fatherland in literature of the first decades of the nineteenth century]

    Jensen, Lotte (2008). De verheerlijking van het verleden: Helden, literatuur en natievorming in de negentiende eeuw (Nijmegen: Vantilt) [The glorification of the past: Heroes, literature and nation-building in the nineteenth century]

    Jensen, Lotte (2013). Verzet tegen Napoleon (Nijmegen: Vantilt) [Resistance against Napoleon]

    Kloek, Joost (1999). “Vaderland en letterkunde, 1750-1800”, in Sas, N.C.F. van (ed.) (1999). Vaderland: Een geschiedenis van de vijftiende eeuw tot 1940 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP) [Fatherland: A history from the 15th century until 1940], 237-274 [Fatherland and belles lettres, 1750-1800]

    Krol, Ellen (1999). “«Verdienste blinkt op Neêrlands troon»: Gelegenheidsgedichten rond de komst van Willem I”, De negentiende eeuw, 23 .1: 23-35 [«Merit shines on Holland’s throne»: Occasional poetry around the arrival of Willem I]

    Zonneveld, Peter van (1981). “De Belgische Opstand en de Nederlandse literatuur”, De negentiende eeuw, 5 .4: 200-211 [The Belgian Revolt and Dutch literature]

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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Jensen, Lotte, 2020. "Patriotic poetry and verse : Dutch", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 16-07-2020, consulted 13-04-2021.