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Three Epitaphs for Pieter de Vois

 
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The following epitaphs were written by Huygens for the blind musician Pieter de Vois (c1580/1-1654). They were translated by me for a book about seventeenth century Dutch musicians, but my translations were rejected by the editors because they are not verbatim.

Pieter [Alewijnszoon] de Vois is an interesting figure in the music history of the Dutch Golden Age. He was a pupil of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and the music teacher of Constantijn Huygens. De Vois was blind. In Amsterdam, Sweelinck and he were responsible together for the table music in the town hall where de Vois played the violin. In 1604 he was appointed organist of the St Jacobskerk in The Hague. When Sweelinck died, he was asked to succeed his former teacher at the Oude Kerk of Amsterdam. De Vois was persuaded to stay in The Hague, where he died in 1654.
 

1. Grafschrift in voor-raed voor Mr. Pieter de Vois

Dit ’s blinde Pieters graf, die meer sagh sonder ooghen
Dan and’re twee door vier. Hy stond op geen medooghen,
Oock voeghd’ hem geen beklagh; sijn’ onmacht was syn’ macht,
Syn ongeval syn’ vreughd; hij leefde in syn’ gedacht
Dat door syn’ handen sprack; hij sagh sich selfs van binnen,
Dat weinighe gebeurt versien van alle sinnen.
Van dat soet binnenste deeld’ hij de Wereld mé
Soo mild, soo vriendelick als hem den Hemel dé.
Dat maeckt’ hem niet schat-rijck; hij bleef ’er oock niet arm van,
(’Ten gaet niet altijd vast, een blind man is een arm man)
Syn liefste Ryckdom was Kunst en gunst van soet volck,
Dat synen lof verhief tot tuschen maen en wolck.
Maer ’twas niet hoogh genoegh: waer ’t meer verstands gegeven,
’Thad sijnen held’ren naem ten Hemel toe gedreven.
Dat hadd hy ruijm verdient in . . . en veertigh jaer,
Met kostelick geluijd van Pyp en Boogh en Snaer.
Maer wat hij song of peep, hij kost nau ooren vinden
Die syn door-wetenschapp begrepen of besinden,
Besinden met verstand: soo voelden hij syn’ lof
Voor ’tmeerendeel misduydt, en selden meer als grof.
Dat speet hem; en hy docht ’twas lang genoegh gestreden
Om blinde liefhebbers te brengen tot de reden;
En scheiden uijt het werck, en brack syn leven af,
En leij syn’ vingeren te rusten in dit Graf.
Maer die die vingeren die wonderen de spreken,
Die wel-getoonde ziel is uijt haer huijs gestreken,
En hemelwaert gegaen: daer singht sij, soo sy song,
Haers Scheppers hoogen lof, met niewe keel en tong,
Daer werdt sij eerst verstaen, daer thoonts’ in beter snaeren
Hoe loff’lick hier beneen haer’ Hallelujas waren.
Nu sit de doove Wer’ld en schreidt haer selven blind
Om ’tgeen sij noyt te deegh en nu te laet versint.
En of sy ’t niet verson, veel’ siende kreup’le blinden
Bij desen Blinden man doen ’t haer te wel bevinden.
Armoede maeckt vernuft: Soo gaet het inder tyd,
Men acht het goede niet, men zij het beste quijt.

9. May.[1651]
Constantijn Huygens

No. [CH1651:039] in the Huygens web archive.

1. Epitaph in preparation for Master Pieter de Vois

This is blind Pieter’s grave, who without eyes saw more,
needing no pity, than the other two with four.
No complaint was his, his impotence was his might,
his misfortune was his joy, his thought replaced his sight;
he spoke through both his hands, from within saw himself,
that very little happens, even with full sensual health.
His dealings with the World from that sweet interior came
so mild and yet so friendly, as Heaven did to him.
That did not make him rich, but want he never knew,
(though many blind are poor, there are a comfortable few).
His dearest Wealth was Art and the favour of good people,
so his praise rose to the moon, higher than church’s steeple.
But it was not high enough: were more understanding given,
it would his famous name to Heaven high have driven.
He’d earned that well enough… and full forty years
with sound of Pipe and Bow and String, enriched the ears.
But what he sang or piped, there were scarcely ears to find
those who his deep knowledge grasped or realized,
realized with understanding, thus he felt his praise
mainly misunderstood and no more than commonplace.
With regret he knew that he’d long enough attempted
to bring blind and unaware art-lovers to their senses;
his work he laid aside, life-weary he confessed
and laid his agile fingers in this Grave to rest.
But he who set those fingers to make such wondrous sound
his most melodious soul has left its earthly ground,
and gone to heaven singing its former glorious song,
its Creator’s highest praise, with a new voice and tongue,
there for the first conceived, where it blends with better strings
how praiseworthy here below its Hallelujahs sings.
The deaf World sits and weeps and makes itself so blind
for what until too late it never realized.
And though not realized, many handicapped with sight
become so blind they’re treated by a Man who knows no light.
Creativity comes from want: The best things get rejected,
at all times it’s been known that the good is not respected.


PJL January 2007

 

2. Grafschrift van Mr. Pieter de Voix

De wereld was soo blind in blinde Pieters waerde,
Dats’ hem nam voor gemeen gewasch van Hollandsch’ aerde.
Dat speet hem, en hij stierf in ’tspijt, of oock daer af:
Soo raeckt d’een blinde door den anderen in ’tgraf.

[4 januari 1652]
Constantijn Huygens

No. [CH1652:001] in the Huygens web archive.

2. (Second) Epitaph of Master Pieter de Voix

The world was yet so blind to blind Pieter's worth,
that it took him for a common crop from Holland's earth.
In or from the grief that caused, he drew his final breath:
so the other blind ones brought the one blind man his death.

PJL, January 2007

 

3. Op het graf van Mr.  Pieter de Vois, de Blinde

Lagh aller Meester hier soo doof niet als hij blind was,
Hij beter Orgelist van dat hij schier een kind was
Dan die m’er nu toe kiest, Hij sprongh wel uijt het Graf,
En joegh de brodders van sijn heerlijck Orgel af.

1 Jun. [1681]

Constantijn Huygens

No. [CH1681:036] in the Huygens web archive.

3. (Third) Epitaph of Master Pieter de Vois, the Blind

The Master of all lay here, not so deaf as he was blind,
even as the merest child, an Org’nist most refined.
Out from the Grave he sprang at them chosen today,
and from his glorious Organ chased those bunglers away.

PJL, January, 2007


 
 

 

Page created 2 December, 2008

All translations © Peter J. Large, 2008

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