Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Joost van Den Vondel

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From volume 15 of the work.

107811Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) — Joost van Den VondelPetrus Henricus Albers

Netherland poet and convert, b. at Cologne, 17 Nov., 1587, of parents whose residence was originally at Antwerp; d. 5 Feb., 1679. Of his early youth nothing is known. In his eighth or ninth year, he went with his father Joost, and his mother, Sara Kranen, to Amsterdam, where his father engaged in the stocking trade. His first known poem dates from 1605, when he was seventeen years old. This and some other poems of his youth exhibit the qualities of the older rhetorical style of poetry. On 20 Nov., 1610, Vondel married Mayken de Wolff. He then began to devote himself to classical studies, as is shown by his poem "Jeruzalem verwoest" (Jerusalem Destroyed), which appeared in 160. Even at this date Vondel had won the friendship of men like Pers, Roemer Virscher, Hooft, the Baccks, Laurens Reael, Plemp, Mostaert, C. Huygens, and Seriverins. This gave Vondel a new worldview and a wider horizon. It was probably between 1620 and 1630 that he dedicated his celebrated poem "De Kruisbergh" (Calvary) to his young wife. His "Palamedes" and "De Amsteldamsche Hecuba" date from the year 1625. Immediately after this, in 1626, appeared "De Roskam" and, in 1631, "Jaergitijde van wijlen Heer Joan van Oldenbaerneveld" and the "Decretum horribile". During this same period Vondel made the acquaintance of Hugo de Groot, to whom he dedicated his "Wellekomst". Between 1631 and 1640 his fame constantly increased. During that time he worked steadily on his "Constantijn". In 1635 appeared "Joseph in't Hof", and shortly after "Gijsbrecht van Aemstel"l in 1639 "De Maeghden". At this time his tragedies follow one another with astonishing rapidity: in November,1 639, "De Gebroeders"; January, 1640, "Joseph in Egypten"; 4 March, 1640, "Joseph in Dothan".

The years 1640-1 were not very fruitful in poems. Vondel was pondering on higher things. Previous to this time the Protestant preachers thought they perceived in him papal tendencies. In 1641 he openly joined the Catholic Church, and thereafter devoted his talents and pen to her service. The "Litterae annuae" of the Jesuits (1641) prove Vondel to have been converted by the Fathers of Krijtberg, and it is reasonably sure that it was Father Petrus Laurentius who brought about his conversion. His daughter Anna had preceded him into the Church and his nephew Peter Vondel followed in 1643. He remained grateful to the Society of Jesus and sang its praises in many beautiful poems. His conversion brought him many new friends and caused him to lose none of his old ones. The first fruit from the pen of the Catholic Vondel was the drama "Peter en Pauwels", which has for its subject-matter the founding of the Church (1641). In 1642 he wrote a no less Catholic poem, "De Brieven der Heilige Maeghden, Martelaressen", with an "Opdracht aan de II. Maeght" (Dedication to the Blessed Virgin). In 1645 appeared the "Altaargeheimenissen" (Mysteries of the Altar), in 1646, "Maria Stuart of Gemartelde Majesteit" (Mary Stuart, or Martyred Majesty). Vondel's art reached its highest development during the years 1647-54. Before 1648 he had completed "Leeuwendalers", which has been designated as "the most perfect drama which our poet has left us". It is a glorification of the Peace of Munster. A number of magnificent poems and remarkable works in prose followed. In 1654 appeared Vondel's masterpiece, "Lucifer". In this he reaches his greatest height not only as a dramatic but as a lyric poet (Leendertz). The piece was interdicted by the Protestant preachers, and consequently ran through four editions in the same year (1654). For the stages which were forbidden to produce "Lucifer", Vondel at once wrote his "Salmonens".

About this time his son, Joost, died, and Vondel had to journey to Denmark to collect what was due there to his son. But this not being sufficient to pay the latter's debts, he had, as his son's security, to give up his whole fortune. He then accepted the position as porter in the Bank van Leening (a pawnshop) with a salary of 650 gulden yearly. Vondel thus lost much of his independence and his time. Shortly afterwards he dedicated his "Jeptha" to Anna van Hoorn, wife of the burgomaster who had secured for him his new position. He then published among other works "Samson", after 1660, "De Heerlijkheit der Kerche" (The Glory of the Church) in 1663, and "Faeton" in 1664, "Adam in ballingschap" (Adam in Exile) in 1667, "Noack of Ondergang der eerste Waerelt" (Noah, or the Destruction of the First World), his last original drama. In 1675 the aged poet lost his daughter Anna, and four years later he himself passed away at the age of ninety-one. He is the greatest poet the Netherlands have produced, one who is distinguished in every form and who occupies a place among the best poets of all time.

VAN LENNEP, De Werken van Vondel (Amsterdam, 1855); UNGER, De Werken van Vondel (Leyden, s.d.); BAUMGARTNER, Joost van den Vondel, sein Leben und seine Werke (Freiburg, 1882); KALF, Vondels LEven (Leyden, s.d.); LEENDERTZ, Het Leven van Vondel (Amsterdam, 1910).

P. Albers.