DUTCH POETRY AND ENGLISH
his admiration can be readily gauged from the fact that he cites in full the "Lines written on hearing the News of the Death of Napoleon", setting them against the dogmatically Calvinistic epode of Bilderdijk on the same theme. "Excentrisch; ja, maar poëtisch!" he exclaims of them: "Excentrisch, en daarom onhollandsch. Nooit leverde de Nederlandsche dichtkunst iets op, wat naar dat vers zweemde." 1 Thereafter he institutes a comparison between the freedom-loving Shelley and the satirical Béranger; contriving in the end to reconcile their Muse of pity, "la sainte Alliance des Peuples".
As stated by Meerkerk, Potgieter's personal ideals might almost have been those of Shelley himself. "Vorming van karakter, he catalogues, "loutering van de ziel, bevestiging van den wil," adding more significantly, "Want voor Potgieter was de kunstenaar niet iets buiten den mensch". 2 There was, indeed something of the nature of the English poet in the Dutchman: his sensitiveness to pain, not in himself but in others, his love of beauty, his zeal to reform, his strain of pessimism. More a man of his 'time than the other, however, Potgieter went where the thought of the age led him. At first he went most valiantly; until, with a shock, it came home to him that a further, more supreme, effort was imperative. Even then he did not slide feebly into the slough of despond, but sought to bestride the winged Pegasus, as other poets had done before him, and fly far off from the present, thus to work from the experiences of the greater spirits of the past - Vondel, Dante, Shakespeare. In this, of course, he sadly misread life's purposes, and long before the end was conscious of having failed. Coming from the lips of a poet, his "Ik heb geworsteld met mijne eeuw" has a devastatingly weary ring. In it he seems to shake off all personal responsibility; it is the age, not himself, that has failed — by its failure to
1 "Studiën en Schetsen," p. 208.
2 "E. J. Potgieter's Gedroomd Paardrijden," Introduction, p. 5.