Friday, December 7, 2012

Churches on the horizon

Elements of the Dutch landscape - 8
After 1496 Erasmus visited Holland only on hasty journeys. There is no evidence that after 1501 he ever set foot on Dutch soil. He dissuaded his own compatriots abroad from returning to Holland. He spoke as a rule about Holland with a sort of apologetic contempt. 'I see that you are content with Dutch fame,' he writes to his old friend William Hermans, who like Cornelius Aurelius had begun to devote his best forces to the history of his native country.

"If they are somewhat sensual and excessive at meals, it results partly from their plentiful supply: nowhere is import so easy and fertility so great. What an extent of lush meadows, how many navigable rivers! Nowhere are so many towns crowded together within so small an area; not large towns, indeed, but excellently governed."
 "If a 'Batavian ear' means a horror of Martial's obscene jokes, I could wish that all Christians might have Dutch ears. When we consider their morals, no nation is more inclined to humanity and benevolence, less savage or cruel. Their mind is upright and void of cunning and all humbug."
 "Their cleanliness is praised by everybody. Nowhere are such large numbers of moderately learned persons found, though extraordinary and exquisite erudition is rather rare."
 "At that time I wrote not for Italians, but for Hollanders, that is to say, for the dullest ears. If the story is not very witty, remember it is a Dutch story."
"In Holland the air is good for me, but the extravagant carousals annoy me; add to this the vulgar uncultured character of the people, the violent contempt of study, no fruit of learning, the most egregious envy."
Dutch proverb:
Al ziet men kerk en toren staan, dan is de reis nog niet gedaan.
When you see the church and it's tower the trip is still not finished.
Huizinga's text was translated from the Dutch by F. Hopman and first published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1924. The section from the Letters of Erasmus was translated by Barbara Flower.
I found this informative and extremely readable book at the Rotterdam second-hand book market. It cost me only 1 euro!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post Petr!
    Those infinitely sharp spires are the landmarks that inspire wonder and curiosity. Unfortunately many contemporary protestant churches, here in the US, literally rent space in vacant strip malls; establishing the mundane and utilitarian versus the sublime.