Monthly Archives: March 2024

1642: The First Polish Texts in the Netherlands (NL Embassy in PL)

On 17 March, the yearly Wierszowisko festival took place in Wijchen, the Netherlands: almost 140 children from Polish schools across the Netherlands performed on stage, giving fabulous renditions of Polish poems. In this manner, the festival helps to keep the Polish language – and Polish poetry in particular – alive in the Netherlands. I was happy to be one of the judges, just as last year. I was greatly impressed by the enthusiasm, the theatrical talents and the language proficiency shown by all the young contestants.

The roots of this literary Polish presence go back hundreds of years: Polish texts were published in the Netherlands as early as the seventeenth century! Interestingly, moreover, most of them were poems, written by Polish students and printed in Franeker, in Frisia. As far as we know, the first two were published in 1642, and several more followed in the rest of the seventeenth century. These poems were written for specific occasions, for example to celebrate someone’s promotion, applaud a new book, or express grief over someone’s passing. The addressees of these poems apparently knew (some) Polish. Franeker at that time had a university, which was frequently visited by (Calvinist) Polish students. The university’s popularity was boosted by two Polish professors: Jan Makowski (Joannes Maccovius) and Mikołaj Arnold (Nicolaus Arnoldus). Arnold himself was the author of two published Polish poems, but he also became proficient in Dutch.

One of the first Polish texts printed in the Netherlands: a poem by Jan Szydłowski, included in Franciscus Heerman’s ‘Guldene Annotatien’, Franeker and Leeuwarden 1642.

*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 51.