YOUNG, "OSSIAN" AND THE BALLADS
lost when he changes the title itself into the meaningless "Adam Gordon"!
To the Dutch reader here, most tantalising feature of all must remain the fact that for Bilderdijk, wrestling with difficult foreign elements so continually, it never came to mean asking why there was no native oral tradition to correspond to that of Scotland and England. Such a tradition, in fact, there had been, going as far back as to Jakob van Maerlant. It had certainly become hopelessly involved with the many classes of devotional songs in which Holland at all times has been rich; but disentanglement was by no means impossible, as Le Jeune 1 proved within Bilderdijk's own life-time, and Hoffmann again a year or two after it. 2 Bilderdijk, however, had neither a genius nor imagination that could, like Scott's, join the history of balladry to the ranks of science by a wide research into the story of origins and variant versions; and even if it had been found to exist, it is questionable if he could have tackled successfully picturesque material of a kind comparable with Percy's "Sir Patrick Spens" and "Chevy Chase". Only then, however, do I really think he would deserve to be fitted completely into Van Elring's all-too-flattering picture: "Maerlant, Vondel en Bilderdijk zijn de vaderen onzer poëzie, de machtige werkers, de brede geesten, die gepoogd hebben ons volk op te drijven, en werkelijk ook met reuzenstappen hebben vooruitgebracht, ondanks hun vaak behoudende ideeën." 3 Once the harsh reviler of English poetical taste, with its "verwoestenden invloed", 4 Bilderdijk by the beginning of the nineteenth century was clearly becoming reconciled to some of the younger writers there; particularly to Campbell, Southey, and
1 "Letterkundig overzigt en proeven van de Nederlandsche Volks-zangen sedert de XVde Eeuw" (1828).
2 "Hollandische Volkslieder, gesammelt und erlautert von Dr Heinrich Hoffmann" (1833).
3 "Bloemlezing uit de Gedichten van Willem Bilderdijk," Preface, IX.
4 "Brieven," II, p. 203.