Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687)

In the late summer of 1624 the Hague diplomat and poet, Sir Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), wrote a series of short, ten-line poems that became known collectively as Dorpen en Stede-stemmen (The voices of villages and towns). *'s-Gravenhage *is one of the six villages, and the poem was written by Huygens on Tuesday 27 August, as is known from the rough draft which has come down to us. The manuscript reproduced here is a fair copy made by the poet himself, which served as the printer's copy for the collection of poems Otiorum libri sex, published in 1625 by the Hague publisher Aert Meuris. On the actual copy, between the title of the series and the first ‘village’, the poet later on wrote a rhyme in which he dedicated these villages to Dorothea van Dorp. In order to preserve some of the original lay-out Huygens added in the margin of the rhyme: ‘To be put in fairly large Italics’. All the same, the rhyme appeared in roman type like the rest of the page. Dorothea van Dorp was Huygens's next-door neighbour and his first love, although they never married, much to her regret. But they remained friends until her death in 1657.

In the series six villages (Valckenburg, Loosduynen, Schevering, Ryswyck, 'Sgravesande and 'Sgravenhage) and the eighteen towns of Holland introduce themselves to the reader, each place talking about its own characteristics. 's-Gravenhage - as the seat of central government - claims to be the country itself. It constitutes the balance of the state, the civilizer of the young, an opportunity for learning and experience. It is a village among towns, where every street is a town in itself. The Hague has no town or city privileges, but the stature of its streets resemble those of a city. At the same time its spacious ‘Voorhout’ makes it an exceptionally green area, to the astonishment of farmers and the delight of townspeople.

The complete poetic legacy of Constantijn Huygens is now held by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. The manuscripts, in the possession of the Huygens family until 1785, were bought by King William I at an Amsterdam auction in 1823, and divided among a number of learned institutions. Huygens's poetry was entrusted to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, which gave the manuscripts on permanent loan to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in 1937.

's-Gravenhage. Constantijn Huygens. [The Hague], 1624. Paper, 320 x 205 mm. KA XLa 1624, fol. 18v

's-Gravenhage. Constantijn Huygens. [The Hague], 1624. Paper, 320 x 205 mm. KA XLa 1624, fol. 18v


De gedichten van Constantijn Huygens (ed. J.A. Worp). Groningen 1892-1899
Constantijn Huygens. Stede-stemmen en dorpen (ed. C.W. de Kruyter). Zutphen 1981
A. Leerintveld, '"Ter goeder memorie van mynen naem"; de nalatenschap van Constantijn Huygens', in: Leven en leren op Hofwijck. Delft 1988, p. 97-115
L. Strengholt, 'De Stede-stemmen van Constantijn Huygens', in: *Holland* 21 (1989), p. 88-110.