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CHAPTER I

HOLLAND'S HERITAGE

I shall not begin by pretending that there is to be made out for the literature of Holland anything like the degree of continuity which M. Georges Duhamel has so brilliantly noted for that of France 1 or Dr Norman McLeod for the literature of England. 2 Yet, equally foolish would it be to proceed in the study of even such a lesser literature without first seeking to understand something of the national background; I would, indeed, count it of less value to show Bilderdijk, Potgieter, Van Lennep, Perk, Kloos, Verwey, Gorter, as poets who followed Macpherson, Scott, Byron, Keats, Shelley, in breaking with tradition than as men who, remembering their own proud native heritage, actually also contrived to assert it accordingly. Above all, therefore, in any conspectus of Dutch poetry, not to insist on the primary importance of Vondel and Hooft — the latter in lesser degree, despite Professor Verwey — 3 would be to veer dangerously near to denationalising it altogether, of reducing it to a mere series of poets. Admittedly, in the seventeenth and eighteenth — and even nineteenth — centuries there were numerous writers in Holland who, quite misguidedly, divorced their work from indigenous forms and motives and sought to engross it with the classical fashions current in Italy and France. But never did any writer whose name has lived

1 Vide "Times Literary Supplement," December 3, 1938.

2 Vide "German Lyric Poetry," p. 10./

3 "De keel in Holland die het strakst gespannen stond, is niet die van den grooten Vondel, maar die van den artistieken Hooft" („Nederlandsche Dichters P. C. Hooft," p. I).

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