Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dutch national anthem

(Kudos to Jan)

Tonight, the Dutch will once again be singing their national anthem, and it's a quite interesting one. For the full story, see the anthem's Wikipedia entry.

Fascinatingly, the lyrics are in the first person, so the Dutch sing as though they were William of Nassau himself -- and the first two lines are especially interesting for the Germans, who are used to being hated by the Netherlands (what with the bombing of Rotterdam and all):

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
Ben ick van Duytschen bloet

Translation: I, William of Nassau, am of "Duytsch" blood. As Wikipedia explains, the Dutch anthem is arguably the oldest in the world, and Wikipedia gives the text not only in the original Dutch, but in a more modern version. Back when the text was originally written, "Duytsch" would not have referred to any kind of Germany, of which there was none (up to Napoleon's days, the various Germanic states were collectively still referred to as the Holy Roman Empire, though with the attribute "of the German nation"). Indeed, we see today that the word "Dutch" itself is close to the word "deutsch," and the Pennsylvania Dutch in the US are generally from the Low German-speaking world, of which northern Germany is part.

During the heyday of the Hanseatic League, the part of Europe that became the Netherlands was closely connected to what became northern Germany and northern Poland, and people in Amsterdam would have spoken language very close to the dialect in Hamburg, for instance.

While we have come to see Germany as consisting of an eastern and western part, historically (since the Reformation) it consisted of a North and the South -- Protestant and Catholic, but also Low German and High German in terms of dialects. In fact, when Bismarck first united the various German states to create what became the Wilhelmine Empire, he united the North and the South (from the old Hanseatic towns into Prussia and down to the Bavarian world, so to speak) in the Protestant-Catholic conflict know as the Kulturkampf, not the east and west. So when the Dutch sing that they are of "Duytsch" blood, they are really just saying they are Low German (from the "nether lands") -- as opposed to Spanish.

Spain had been messing around in the Netherlands back then, and William tells the Spanish (while also pointing out he has always respected the King of Spain):

Dat van de Spaengiaerts crencken
O Edel Neerlandt soet,
Als ick daer aen ghedencke
Mijn Edel hert dat bloet.

So Spain was exploiting the Netherlands, and it broke William's heart.

The Dutch anthem has an incredible number of stanzas (15!), so the whole story will not be sung before the game tonight, but you can bet your klompen that the Dutch will know they are singing an apology to Spain -- "sorry, Spain, no disrespect intended, but we do choose liberty over subjugation." It's as though the Dutch sang "give me liberty, or give me death" as their national anthem.

The Spanish national anthem is also a bit unique in that it has no lyrics, the lyrics adopted under the Franco regime having fallen out of fashion in the late 1970s, much as the Germans no longer sing the first of three stanzas in their national anthem -- the one beginning "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles". Now, the Germans focus on "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (unity, justice, and freedom -- sort of the German trilogy for France's liberty, equality, and brotherhood). It is interesting to note that Spain has dealt with its fascist past in the same way it dealt with the lyrics to its national anthem; they don't sing their lyrics, and they don't talk about their past -- whereas Germany simply dropped one of its three stanzas, still sings the other two, and has done an exemplary job of dealing with its past.

For those of you thinking that Spain is going to win tonight, keep in mind that the Dutch have not lost once in the past 25 matches. Yet another reason why the Dutch are going to beat Spain 1-0 tonight. And if the Dutch don't win? Als ick daer aen ghedencke, mijn edel hert dat bloet...


  1. A good blog, as a dutchman i expect a similar score as you predicted. Non of the octopus crap. Nicely done though i think the game will be rather boring. A germany holland game would have been really exciting (though i doubt the dutch would win). We will see tonight if the dutch can "honour" the spanish with a brilliant game of dutch football and hopefully a victory!

  2. And History proved u all wrong as SPAin ruled YET again- For the soccer sake! lol