One sees the difference concretely as one passes from these many Corporation and Regent pieces in the galleries of Holland to the living Dutchmen of the streets. I saw it particularly at Haarlem on a streaming wet day, after hurrying from the Museum to the Cafe Brinkmann through some inches of water. At a table opposite, sipping their coffee, were two men strikingly like two of Frans Hals’ arquebusiers. Yet how unlike. For the air of masterful recklessness had gone, that good-humoured glint of power in the eye was no more. Hals had painted conquerors, or at any rate warriors for country; these coffee drinkers were meditating profit and loss. Where once was authority is now calculation.
I quote a little poem by Mr. Van Lennep of Zeist, near Utrecht, which shows that the Dutch, whatever their present condition, have not forgotten:—
The shell, when put to child-like
Yet murmurs of its bygone years,
In echoes of the sea;
The Dutch-born youngster likes the sound,
And ponders o’er its mystic ground
And wondrous memory.
Thus, in Dutch hearts, an
Which, like the ever-mindful shells,
Yet murmurs of the sea:
That sea, of ours in times of yore,
And, when De Ruyter went before,
Our road to victory.
The Venice of the North—The beauty of gravity—No place for George Dyer—The Keizersgracht—Kalverstraat and Warmoes Straat—The Ghetto—Pile-driving—Erasmus’s sarcasm—The new Bourse—Learning the city—Tramway perplexities—The unnecessary guide—The Royal Palace—The New Church—Stained glass—The Old Church—The five carpets—Wedding customs—Dutch wives to-day and in the past—The Begijnenhof—The new religion and the old—The Burgerweesmeisjes—The Eight Orange Blossoms—Dutch music halls—A Dutch Hamlet—The fish market—Rembrandt’s grave—A nation of shopkeepers—Max Havelaar—Mr. Drystubble’s device—Lothario and Betsy—The English in Holland and the Dutch in England—Athleticism—A people on skates—The chaperon’s perplexity—Love on the level.
Amsterdam is notable for two possessions above others: its old canals and its old pictures. Truly has it been called the Venice of the North; but very different is its sombre quietude from the sunny Italian city among the waters. There is a beauty of gaiety and a beauty of gravity; and Amsterdam in its older parts—on the Keizersgracht and the Heerengracht—has the beauty of gravity. In Venice the canal is of course also the street: gondolas and barcas are continually gliding hither and thither; but in the Keizersgracht and the Heerengracht the water is little used. One day, however, I watched a costermonger steering a boat-load of flowers under a bridge, and no words of mine can describe the loveliness of their reflection. I remember the incident particularly because flowers are not much carried in Holland, and it is very pleasant to have this impression of them—this note of happy gaiety in so dark a setting.