DUTCH POETRY AND ENGLISH
dramatic art, in the end so great is the resurgence of his more natural lyric impulses that it is little wonder that they almost succeed in sweeping away such shreds of dramatic opposition as remain. Quite irresistibly the conviction is borne in upon us that these lyric gifts actually so far exceeded his dramatic powers that he may best be understood as a lyric poet fretting, unwittingly, under the restraints imposed by classical training, method, diction, formulae.
It is always interesting — if futile — to speculate on what various writers might have been, living in other ages and times. Vondel it is almost certain, had he been re-incarnated a century later, would not have adopted drama as his medium, unless (knowing definitely the influence of Milton now) he had held to lyrical drama and epic for his graver themes. Otherwise, I think, he would have kept to satire — probably on Popean lines; dropping his Alexandrines in favour of the heroic couplet, but just lacking the full, deadly incisiveness and wit of the English master of this Augustan vogue. Beyond this I can hardly see him; but certainly not as a Dr Johnson for Amsterdam, sitting in pontifical judgment on his fellows, nor, I think, as a complete nature poet, first heralding to Holland the Romantic Revival...
Returning to the actual Vondel of the seventeenth century, it may not be out of place here to consider him specifically as a poet of nature. My own opinion is that on this side an altogether exaggerated importance has been assigned him. Here, for me at any rate, he was Johnsonian enough — too much the spectator of men and affairs, with too much of the busy townsman in his composition, to be other than incidentally influenced by nature in its larger moods.1 And now in so great isolation does this
i Professor Barnouw sees his vision as "a purely literary, as opposed to the pictorial conception of the landscape . . . It is nature thought of as a foil to the folly of cultured city life, a fanciful reminder to civilized man in his sins that he also was once in Arcady" ("Vondel," p. 181).