DUTCH POETRY AND ENGLISH
by a nation starved for poetry! Never before him had any man so made literary history. No more than grown up himself, he had come to show that Dutch poetry, after prolonged growingpains, had grown up too; that henceforward Da Costa, Beets, Bogaers, Tollens, must be put away with childish things. Even for Bilderdijk poetry had been primarily an intellectual exercise, for Potgieter largely a social art — the poet the keeper of the community's "conscience": now it was to be vindicated as a vatic art, the profoundest source of intuition about all life. "Zelden," says Professor Verwey without exaggeration, "is een herleving van de poëzie in haar oorsprong zoo onvermengd geweest." 1
How different, it is not idle to speculate, would have been the reception of Perk fifty years earlier! A dreamer, a Romantic of the highest idealism, he would assuredly have been quite beyond the powers of anyone in that age to appreciate; he would have suffered as great misunderstanding as Keats himself in the England of his day: oblivion might well have been his lot! In those early 'eighties he still seemed like some spiritual being — yet one, nevertheless, created to be enthroned in the hearts of his countrymen; the voice of a mere youth, but speaking in tones of such boundless courage and resolve as indubitably to be a permanent addition to the ranks of the very greatest poets. Never, I suppose, can there have been a literary Movement so completely inspired and consummated by youth at that of Tachtig, Chatterton, "the marvellous boy", ceased here to be the exception and became almost the rule!
Less valuable is it to speculate on what Perk might have achieved had he lived. Reddingius recognizes frankly that "revolutionair was zijn aard niet, niet bewust revolutionair als van hen, die eenige jaren na zijn dood het aanzijn zouden geven aan een beweging, waarvan Perk bij langer leven tijdgenoot, wellicht ook 1 "Inleiding tot de Nieuwe Nederlandsche Dichtkunst," p. II.