Remembering Holland

When I think of Holland I see wide rivers
flow slowly in boundless lowlands,
rows of improbably thin poplars
stand like high plumes at the horizon;
and lost in the enormous space
farms dotting the land,
clumps of trees, villages, truncated towers
churches and elm trees in a grand union,
the sky hangs low and slowly the sun
disappears in a multicolored grey haze,
and in all parts the voice of the sea
is heard and feared, spelling disaster eternally.

Henk Marman

In 1936, Dutch poet Marman wrote the poem 'Herinnering aan Holland' (Remembering Holland). Almost every Dutchman knows the first line of this poem, and maybe also the second. The portrait that Marman painted with his words is rather dated today however. Many things have changed in the Dutch landscape during the twentieth century. The Dutch lowlands are no longer 'boundless'. No matter in which direction you look, you will see signs of civilisation. Nevertheless, some of Marsman's words are still recognisable today. Besides the description of the beautiful landscape, Marsman also refers to the everlasting battle against sea: 'in all parts the voice of the sea is heard and feared, spelling disaster eternally'. Seventeen years later, in the year 1953, the sea would roar again.