1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maerlant, Jacob van
MAERLANT, JACOB VAN (c. 1235–c. 1300), Flemish poet, was born in the Franc de Burges (tradition says at Damme) between 1230 and 1240. He was sacristan of Maerlant, in the island of Ost-Voorne, and afterwards clerk to the magistrates at Damme. His early works are translations of French romances. Maerlant’s most serious work in the field of romance was his Ystorien van Troyen (c. 1264), a poem of some forty thousand lines, translated and amplified from the Roman de Troie of Benoît de Sainte-More. From this time Maerlant rejected romance as idle, and devoted himself to writing scientific and historical works for the education and enlightenment of the Flemish people. His Heimelicheit der Heimelicheden (c. 1266) is a translation of the Secreta secretorum, a manual for the education of princes, ascribed throughout the middle ages to Aristotle. Van der Naturen Bloeme is a free translation of De natura rerum, a natural history in twenty books by a native of Brabant, Thomas de Cantimpré; and his Rijmbijbel is taken, with many omissions and additions, from the Historia scholastica of Petrus Comestor. He supplemented this metrical paraphrase of Scripture history by Die Wrake van Jherusalem (1271) from Josephus. Although Maerlant was an orthodox Catholic, he is said to have been called to account by the priests for translating the Bible into the vulgar tongue. In 1284 he began his magnum opus, the Spiegel historiael, a history of the world, derived chiefly from the third part of the Speculum majus of Vincent de Beauvais. This work was completed by two other writers, Philipp Utenbroeke and Lodowijk van Velthem. Maerlant died in the closing years of the 13th century, his last poem, Van den lande van oversee, dating from 1291. The greater part of his work consists of translations, but he also produced poems which prove him to have had real original poetic faculty. Among these are Die Clausule van der Bible, Der Kerken Clage, imitated from the Complaintes of Rutebeuf, and the three dialogues entitled Martijn, in which the fundamental questions of theology and ethics were discussed. In spite of his orthodoxy, Maerlant was a keen satirist of the corruptions of the clergy. He was one of the most learned men of his age, and for two centuries was the most celebrated of Flemish poets.
See monographs by J. van Beers (Ghent, 1860); C. A. Serrure (Ghent, 1861); K. Versnaeyen (Ghent, 1861); J. te Winkel (Leiden, 1877, 2nd ed., Ghent, 1892); and editions of Torec (Leiden, 1875) by J. te Winkel; of Naturen Bloeme, by Eelco Verwijs; of Alexanders Geesten (Groningen, 1882), by J. Franck; Merlijn (Leiden, 1880–1882), by J. van Bloten; Heimelicheit der Heimelicheden (Dordrecht, 1838), by Clarisse; Der Naturen Bloeme (Groningen, 1878), by Verwijs; of Rijmbijbel (Brussels, 1858–1869), by David; Spiegel historiael (Leiden 1857–1863), by Verwijs and de Vries; selections from the Ystorien van Troyen (1873), by J. Verdam.