A Wanderer in Holland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 269 pages of information about A Wanderer in Holland.

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 ears,
    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 echo dwells,
    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.

Chapter X

Amsterdam

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.

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A Wanderer in Holland from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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