Monday, May 8, 2017

Joost van den Vondel

Joost van den Vondel (1587—1679) is considered to be Holland's national playwright, and the most prominent Dutch poet of the 17th century. Although his Dutch contemporaries — the painters Rembrandt and Rubens — are known internationally, Vondel is little known outside of Holland.

The most valued of all his thirty full-length dramas is Lucifer, which opened at the Amsterdam City Theatre in February of 1654. The play was boycotted and protested by Calvinists who felt Vodel's treatment of scripture was outrageous. Some critics have even suggested that Milton's portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost (1667) is influenced by Vondel.

The following is from Noel Clark's translation of Lucifer. These lines are spoken by the angel Gabriel.

from Lucifer Act One

Hearken ye Angels! All ye Heavenly bands!
The Supreme Godhead from whose bosom flows
All that is good and holy, who no respite knows
From mercy, but whose store of grace grows greater —
(No creature yet can fathom the Creator!)
This God, in His own image, fashioned Man
So he, together with the Angels can,
By honouring God’s laws with zealous care,
His everlasting Kingdom hope to share.
Earth’s universe God wrought – a wondrous sight,
Both Man and his Creator to delight …
As Eden’s ruler, Man should multiply,
With all his offspring serve the Deity,
Knowing and loving Him, Earth’s stairs ascending
Towards perpetual light and bliss unending.
Long did the Spirit-world all else outshine,
Now, to exalt Mankind is God’s design:
Preferred to Angels even, Man will be shown
A path to splendour equalling God’s own.
Bedecked in flesh and blood, anointed Lord
And Master, passing judgment on the horde
Of Spirits, Angels and Mankind, you’ll see
The King of Heaven come in majesty.
There stands His Throne, already sanctified!
Let Angels all in earnest prayer abide
Till He appears, whose choice of human stature
Sets Him above all beings of our nature!
Then shall the Seraphim less brightly shine,
In human light and radiance divine.
God’s grace puts Nature’s brilliance in the shade:
That is the future. The decision’s made!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.