The name Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, or, in Latin, Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius (1595–1640), will probably not ring too many bells with the average modern reader. Nevertheless, the Polish Jesuit poet, whose numerous Neo-Latin compositions won him the name ‘the Christian/Sarmatian Horace’, was famous throughout Europe for over two hundred years.1 In the Low Countries, his poetry was read and praised by many renowned authors, such as Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, Hugo Grotius and Constantijn Huygens. As a result of his popularity, several of the Pole’s poems were translated into Dutch.

It is surprising, therefore, that to this day there has been but little scholarly interest in these translations. As they form a significant part of Sarbiewski’s literary heritage in the Low Countries, however, it is of great importance that these translations be investigated in detail, in order to better understand the international reception of the Polish Jesuit’s works, and the spread and popularity of his writings in the Netherlands. In addition, these texts inform us about the evolution of poetic translations and adaptations, and the ways in which some translators sought to appropriate foreign literature to their own contexts.

This paper investigates the first published Dutch translation of one of Sarbiewski’s poems, Lyr. IV, 36 Ad equites Polonos et Lithuanos, by the little-known author Simon Ingels. The aim is to assess how Ingels went about translating Sarbiewski’s original and why he did so. First, a thing or two should be said about the Pole’s popularity in the Low Countries in general, so as to paint a background for the rest of the paper. Then, the translator himself, Simon Ingels, will be briefly introduced. Finally, Sarbiewski’s original and Ingels’ translation will be analysed and compared with one other.

Sarbiewski and the Low Countries

Although Sarbiewski’s first claim to fame may be that his poetry was probably much admired at the court of Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini, 1568–1644) while the Polish Jesuit lived in Rome during the 1620s,2 and although the great majority of translations of Sarbiewski’s works was written on the British Isles,3 it is safe to say that the Sarmatian Horace owed his international popularity to the Low Countries, and more specifically to Antwerp. The first edition of his poems issued there is said to have been produced by a printer named Montus or Monti, in 1624. It contained only four epodes, and did not mention Sarbiewski as their author.4 Thus, when Joannes Cnobbaert (or Jan Knobbaert), the printer of the enlarged 1630 edition, wrote in his preface that Sarbiewski’s poetry ‘e Polonia huc denuo advolavit’ (‘has flown here from Poland once again’), he may have been referring to this, or another, earlier edition, which he then substantially expanded. However, since Cnobbaert’s printing press was located next to the Antwerp Jesuit domus professa, it is perhaps more likely that he received the material from his neighbours.5

Cnobbaert’s volume in turn probably inspired Balthasar Moretus (1574–1641), grandson of the famous Christoffel Plantin (c. 1520–1589) and owner of one of the most important printing houses in Europe, to publish Sarbiewski’s poetry himself, in 1632 and 1634. As Antwerp was ‘a Jesuit stronghold’,6 the Plantin-Moretus publishing house was no stranger to Jesuit works,7 and Balthasar Moretus had successfully worked with Polish authors and printers in the past.8 Furthermore, when the Polish crown prince Władysław Wasa visited Antwerp in 1624, Moretus was able to offer him a special edition of Robert Bellarmine’s (1542–1621) De officio Principis Christiani libri tres and several other works.9 The Antwerp printer thus had every reason to be enthusiastic about Sarbiewski’s poetry, all the more so because Moretus himself was no mean poet, and he may well have appreciated the Pole’s literary talents.10

From a number of letters written to or about Sarbiewski by Moretus in the years surrounding his two editions of Sarbiewski’s lyrics, it becomes apparent that the Jesuit father Joannes Bollandus (1596–1665) formed the most important link between the Polish poet and the Antwerp printer.11 Bollandus may have informed Sarbiewski about Moretus’ plans to publish the Pole’s works. In response, Sarbiewski composed the flattering Lyr. III, 31 Ad Balthasarem Moretum, for which Moretus thanked the poet in one of his letters. Moreover, Moretus’ enthusiasm may have been excited even more when Bollandus told him of numerous new, still unpublished poems.12

Moretus went on to publish what would become the standard editions of Sarbiewski’s poems until well into the eighteenth century.13 Containing four books of odes, one of epodes and one of epigrams, they were also the largest collections of the Polish Jesuit’s works until that time. As the 1632 volume soon sold out, another edition was sent to the press in 1634, of which no fewer than five thousand copies were issued, indicating the book’s enormous popularity. Importantly, however, the editions did not only include Sarbiewski’s own poetry, but works by other poets as well: in a so-called Epicitharisma at the end of the volume, a ‘finale’, we might say, we find a collection of fifteen Latin poems by fourteen authors, mostly Antwerp Jesuits, all eulogising Sarbiewski.14 Some of the more famous poets contributing to this collection were Sidronius Hosschius (1596–1653), Jacobus Wallius (1599–1690) and even Erycius Puteanus (1574–1646), the only non-Jesuit.15 Sarbiewski’s international status thus received a welcome boost in the form of a number of laudatory poems, which suitably extol the Pole to nigh unreachable heights: Sarbiewski is even said to outdo Horace and Orpheus! Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), himself a poet of great renown, is credited to have had the same high opinion of the Polish Jesuit’s writings,16 and Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687) too appears to have been an avid reader of Sarbiewski’s oeuvre, excited as he was to receive the 1632 issue.17

The reason I emphasise the importance of the Antwerp editions, is because it is highly likely that the first Netherlandish translators of Sarbiewski’s works made use of them. For apart from the appraisals he received, the influence he had on other authors, and the place of his works in school curricula,18 the Low Countries also produced a number of translations of his poetry, ranging from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Until now, I know of eight translations by six authors, three of which are well known. Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft (1581–1647) was the first to translate an ode by Sarbiewski, in 1634, accompanying a letter to a friend with his paraphrase of Sarbiewski’s Lyr. I, 2 Ad Aurelium Lycum, and saying he did not find its author inferior to Horace.19 He was followed by the prolific poet David van Hoogstraten (1658–1724) in 1697, who included two of the Pole’s poems in his collection of translations of for example Horace, Martial, and Jacopo Sannazaro,20 and finally, in 1838, the Fleming Prudens van Duyse (1804–1859) produced a translation of Sarbiewski’s Lyr. III, 29 Ad amicos Belgas.21 Furthermore, a couple of translations were composed by two little-known authors, one in the eighteenth, and one in the nineteenth century.22

The majority of these translations have a few things in common: firstly, most follow the originals relatively closely, at least when it comes to their meaning. Secondly, most inform the reader that they are indeed translations of Sarbiewski’s lyrics. This is not the case with the translation at the heart of this paper, however.


That poem, which is the first published Dutch translation of any of Sarbiewski’s works, comes from the hand of a man who does not share the fame of Hooft, Van Hoogstraten, or Van Duyse. In fact, we cannot even be sure of his name: the title-page of his collected poetry, printed by Abraham van Blanken in Amsterdam in 1658, gives us only his initials: S.I. For a long time, these were thought to represent one S. Ingen,23 yet for some time now, scholars think the man was actually called Simon Ingels.24 Born in Amsterdam in 1618, Ingels studied law in Leiden in 1640 and in 1660 moved to Barcelona as consul.25 What became of him after that, we do not know.

The volume in which we find Ingels’ translation of Sarbiewski’s Lyr. IV, 36 is entitled De getrouwe herderin. Lantspel. Door S.I. Met eenige gedichten van de zelve (The loyal shepherdess. Country play. By S.I. With several poems by the same).26 It is largely taken up by another translation, although Ingels presents it as his own work: his De getrouwe herderin is a translation of La fida ninfa (1595) by the Italian Francesco Contarini (1556–1624).27 Following this play is a large collection of short poems on a variety of topics, ranging from eulogies to epitaphs to descriptions of works of art. In addition to the translation of Sarbiewski’s Lyr. IV, 36, there is a translation of the Pole’s Epigr. LVIIMater Neronis ad Neronem, erroneously entitled Octavia aan Nero (Octavia to Nero; the emperor’s mother was called Agrippina, not Octavia), which follows the original relatively closely.28 Nowhere is it indicated, however, that Ingels has included translations into his collection, nor is the name of Sarbiewski (or Contarini, for that matter) ever mentioned.

In the author’s preface, Ingels merely informs the reader that his inquisitiveness has caused him to produce his compositions, ‘like Apelles once did with his paintings’. He goes on to say that the writing of De getrouwe herderin had taken him some ten or twelve years, and that he has included the collection of poems, which he had composed both in the Low Countries and abroad, in order to appease a friend of his, as well as to make the whole ‘more agreeable’.29

Following the actual preface is a Latin sentence which may prove useful when analysing Ingels’ translation of Sarbiewski’s poem: ‘Fructus legendi is est, ut aemuleris, quae in aliis probas, et quae maxime in aliorum scriptis miraris, in aliquem usum tuum opportuna derivatione convertas’ (‘The fruit of reading is this, to strive for that which you approve of in others, and to apply for some use of yours, with a suitable derivation, that which you admire the most in the writings of others’). The sentence is a nearly verbatim quote from Macrobius’(late fourth-early fifth century AD) SaturnaliaIV, 1.2. In his book, Macrobius stressed the importance of collecting and adjusting the works of earlier authors, following the still older theory of the author as a bee, associated mostly with Seneca the Younger (4 BC-65 AD). The author must imitate a bee, Seneca said, which goes around from flower to flower, collecting nectar, and mingles the various nectars into ‘a single sweet substance’.30 Ingels may therefore not have told the reader about his translations explicitly, yet by adding this one sentence to his preface, he is signaling that not all of the material found in his collection is necessarily entirely original. Indeed, he has applied that which he admires ‘the most in the writings of others’ ‘for some use’ of his own. As will be shown below, this is exactly what he did with Sarbiewski’s ode.

Importantly, several of Ingels’ poems indicate why the Dutchman may have been drawn to Sarbiewski’s works in the first place: his odes on Christ Crucified, a statue of the Virgin Mary and ‘the poet beneath the cross’ are strongly reminiscent of the Polish Jesuit’s own lyrics. Considering this, there may well be more to the S.I. initials as well: at the time, these letters would automatically be associated with the Societas Iesu, the Society of Jesus, the order of the Jesuits. Could Ingels have been a Jesuit himself? Such an interpretation would explain why the author chose to leave out both his own name and that of Sarbiewski, at a time when most of the Dutch Republic was Calvinistic. The initials served to cover up Ingels’ identity, yet may simultaneously have hinted at the author’s religious convictions, addressing his fellow Jesuits specifically.

Sarbiewski’s original...

Let us now take a look at the poem Ingels has translated. The title of Sarbiewski’s Lyr. IV, 36, which first appeared in the Plantin-Moretus volumes, reads Ad equites Polonos et Lithuanos. Amphion, seu Civitas bene ordinata (To the Polish and Lithuanian knights. Amphion, or The well-ordered State).31 The ode thus ties in with other poems by Sarbiewski, who on multiple occasions addressed his fellow countrymen, either praising their victories or exhorting them to battle.32 The ode’s subtitle, however, reveals that Lyr. IV, 36 is slightly different: other than we might expect, perhaps, the poem does not only have a martial component, but in fact addresses a much more general issue, that of ‘The well-ordered State’. That state, of course, is Poland-Lithuania.33

In the ode, Amphion, the mythical Greek lyre player who built the walls of Thebes using his divine music, calls upon the Thebans, asking them to cherish their ancient rites and customs, and to discard all that is new and foreign (1–4). Most of the poem is subsequently taken up by further admonitions: peace and unity must be strived for, while vices such as greed and laziness should be excluded. Thát, then, appears to be the essence of the well-ordered state from the ode’s title, of which we are again reminded at the poem’s end, when the walls of Thebes come together and form a harmonious unity, a metaphor for the well-ordered state itself.

Thus, while the poem’s beginning and end indicate a Theban context, the stanza’s in between move away from the ancient city, so as to put to the fore rather more generally applicable messages. ‘Holy Divine Right’, ‘Justice’, and ‘Truth and Peace and Love’ should banish all crime, for which, it seems, no walls are high enough (5–12).34 Deceit, lust for power and idle luxury should make place for poverty, and soldiers ought to concern themselves with iron, not gold (13–20). In order for all this to happen, men should join forces, for high temples are better supported by a hundred columns, a wandering ship is safer when led by a great many stars, and an anchor with a double grip will fasten a ship more firmly (21–28). Anger, responsible for the conflicts between the wealthy and the demise of great cities, should make way for ‘comradely strength’ with ‘an eternal bond’ (29–32).

In the final three stanzas, we return to Thebes, and the poem for the first time mentions Amphion’s name, as well as two geographical elements which strongly relate to the Greek musician’s myth: Amphion’s amazing powers are emphasised when we are told that his singing halted the waters of the otherwise streaming Dirce fount, while at the same time the mountain Cithaeron was forced to move (33–36).35 Next, all sorts of stones and the forest itself are said to have come hurrying towards the lyre player, and, as soon as he stopped singing, they clung together to form the walls of Thebes, famous for its seven gates (37–44).

What, then, did Sarbiewski have to say with Lyr. IV, 36? Anyone familiar with the Pole’s works will tell you that he loved to lecture his readers, and this poem is just that: a lecture. Sarbiewski presents himself as a ‘Vates’, a ‘Seer’, a second Amphion, who speaks to his fellow countrymen, the Polish and Lithuanian knights from the title. He seeks to influence them with his poetry, just as Amphion did before him: we must unite, he says, and stand as strong as the mythical walls of Thebes. Moreover, the fact that Sarbiewski has made sure to name the different types of ‘barbaric stones’ which make up the walls (stones, rocks, and boulders), suggests that he meant to underscore Amphion’s ability (and presumably Sarbiewski’s own desire) to unite what is disparate: we will stand strong despite of (or perhaps because of) our differences!

Furthermore, there could also be a religious message, implied by the number seven, the amount of gates in the city’s walls. Seven is, of course, a divine number, and it features in another of Sarbiewski’s poems to the Polish knights as well, in which he urges them to unite in their faith, symbolised by ‘a sevenfold flame’.36 Should the number seven signify the author’s religious beliefs in this case as well, the ode would not merely call for unity, but for unity through the catholic faith specifically. This reading, combined with the fact that the poem is addressed to the Polish and Lithuanian knights, would simultaneously indicate that the implied foe is one that does not share the author’s faith: the Ottoman Empire, one of the enemies of Poland Sarbiewski wrote about most frequently.37 To defeat them, however, the Poles and Lithuanians would have to overcome the vices in their homeland, and ‘unite the assembled powers’, thus creating a ‘well-ordered State’.

... and Ingels’ translation

Simon Ingels’ version of the Sarbiewski’s ode has a somewhat different meaning, caused not only by the fact that the Dutchman chose to compose a rhymed translation, in a different metre.38 This section will discuss Ingels’ poem, focusing naturally on those aspects which are, in my view, the most interesting, in the sense that they significantly differ from the original. In the conclusion, we will be able to assess exactly how Ingels has handled Sarbiewski’s Lyr. IV, 36 and why he has done so.

Ingels’ poem is entitled Amphion aan de Tebanen. Movit Amphion lapides canendoAmphion to the Thebans. Amphion moved the stones with his singing), using a quote from Horace Od. III, 11.2 in the subtitle.39 The Dutchman thus chose to make scarce the Polish and Lithuanian knights from Sarbiewski’s original, and he likewise removed any notion of the poem having a politic streak, which the Pole underscored by subtitling his ode Amphion, or The well-ordered State. Additionally, as was mentioned before, Sarbiewski’s name is notably absent from Ingels’ volume, nor is it in any way indicated that we are dealing with a translation. At first glance, then, Ingels’ poem would appear to be his own composition about Amphion, the mythical seer, speaking to his fellow Thebans, but nothing more.

Yet in the first few stanzas, when Amphion calls upon the Thebans to stay true to their ancient rites and customs, and he wishes for virtues such as love and peace to be triumphant, Ingels is relatively true to Sarbiewski. Some of the more notable alterations are the following. Firstly, instead of translating ‘Templa’ literally with ‘Temples’, Ingels has chosen to turn them into a ‘Church’ (5), something better suited to Ingels’ time and place of writing than the ancient temples Sarbiewski had in mind. Secondly, the Pole’s ‘Truth and Peace and Love’ (6–7) have become ‘Love, Unity and Peace’ (7), thus trading ‘Truth’ for ‘Unity’. It is an understandable alteration, considering that in the rest of the poem ‘Truth’ plays virtually no role whatsoever, while ‘Unity’ is at the very heart of it. Moreover, these three elements, ‘Love, Unity and Peace’ are named ‘a holy trinity’ (8), making explicit what Sarbiewski left implicit: while the Polish Jesuit may have left the reader guessing as to whether or not his ode had a religious undertone, Ingels introduces it plainly at the beginning of his translation. Moving on, the Dutchman has left out an entire stanza: Sarbiewski’s third stanza had a rather dark edge to it, saying that crime has no walls, that vengeance had broken through the city’s high towers and threefold gates, and that ‘thunderbolts lie awake in all faults’ (9–12). Ingels has removed all this, however, perhaps because he thought the foreshadowing of Amphion’s wall too explicit,40 or he felt the verses did not tie in with the poem’s in the end positive message.

This is all but a prelude to what is to come, however. In the following stanzas, where in both versions Amphion gives further advice to the Thebans, Ingels has altered Sarbiewski’s original quite substantially. For whereas the latter remained somewhat abstract, speaking of the banishment of ‘Deceit’, the lust for power and idle gain (13–15), Ingels has made it more specific: he mentions ‘Thieves’, who spend public money on themselves, and ‘Rascals’ who stir up revolt (9–12). The poverty Sarbiewski wished for is not found in Ingels, nor is the Polish Jesuit’s comment on soldiers, iron and gold (17–20). Instead, the Dutchman makes it almost personal, describing ‘Servants who wish to be Masters’, ‘who but fain servility’, waste the country’s money and bring the land no good whatsoever (13–16). But who is Ingels talking about? Keeping in mind that he may have been a Jesuit, it is possible that Ingels was referring to the stadtholders, whose inclinations were mostly Contraremonstrant (i.e. strongly Calvinistic), or to the Orangists who supported them.41 Another, perhaps more convincing interpretation, however, would be to view Ingels’ criticism as a more general negative reaction against (religious) libertines, or perhaps even foreigners, at a time when the Dutch Republic was still relatively young.

Next comes the passage in which both authors urge their readers to unite and trust one another. The main message in both texts is virtually the same, and most dissimilarities are of no great significance (the soldier Sarbiewski spoke of, for example, is not present in Ingels’ version, yet he does mention war and ‘hard-fought Peace’), but there is one key difference, which gives extra credibility to the idea that a specific Dutch context should be taken into account. For whereas Sarbiewski spoke of ‘High temples’ standing on ‘A hundred columns’ (23–24), Ingels mentions a ‘House’, being supported by ‘seven Pillars’ (21–22). For any reader of the time, this must have been an undoubtedly clear reference to the Republic of the Seven United Provinces. All Ingels had to do was change one number, ‘one hundred’, into another number, ‘seven’, in order for the poem to gain a whole new meaning: the Dutch Republic, symbolised by the ‘seven Pillars’, must cease its civil strife and become united once more.42

Following this, Ingels again makes the abstract more specific when describing the dangers of discord, saying that the conflicts between rulers have often resulted in ‘ash, and the blood of Civilian corpses’ (32), while Sarbiewski wrote merely of the fall of ‘Great cities’ (32). Ingels has thereby given the poem a more harsh, realistic side. This realism can furthermore be related to the next section, in which Amphion’s supernatural talent is described: the Dutchman has replaced the stillness of the Dirce fount and the moving Cithaeron mountain, important geographical markers in the myth of Amphion, with the more simple ‘Sea and Lands’ (35). Sure, Amphion is still in the picture, but the scene itself no longer needs take place in Greece. Rather, it could be anywhere, for example in the Low Countries, where the sea and lands are more common than the Dirce fount and the Cithaeron mountain.

Lastly, we come to the ode’s final two stanza’s, where Ingels has remained largely true to Sarbiewski’s version, but for a few minor details. Firstly, the Dutchman describes only ‘Oak trees’ and ‘large chunks of stone’ (37–38), which come hurrying towards Amphion, while the Pole made an effort to differentiate between the rocks, stones, and boulders, perhaps so as to emphasise the lyre player’s ability to unite what is disparate (37–40). Furthermore, instead of saying that Thebes had seven gates, Ingels mentions seven walls, perhaps simply because he needed his walls, his ‘muren’, to rhyme with the earlier ‘uren’ (43–44). Be that as it may, the original’s final words concerning Thebes’ seven gates offer the opportunity to read something new into the poem, something which Sarbiewski himself did not intend: for not only does the number seven have an inherent connection with Thebes, and not only may it represent the author’s faith, but in Ingels’ case it also corresponds with the seven pillars we saw earlier, and thus with the Dutch Republic. It is a metaphor which was there for the taking, and which in all likelihood attracted Ingels to Sarbiewski’s ode in the first place.

Simon Ingels as a bee

What, then, can be concluded from this comparison between the Latin original and the Dutch translation, regarding Ingels’ ‘treatment’ of Sarbiewski’s lyric? If we recall the Dutchman’s preface, including the reference to Macrobius and the theory of the author as a bee, we can see plainly just what Ingels had in mind: he has carefully read Sarbiewski’s poem, and subsequently applied it ‘for some use’ of his own when translating it into his native tongue. From a poem addressed to the Polish and Lithuanian knights, admonishing them to work together in order to build a ‘well-ordered State’, and quite possibly containing a religious element as well, Ingels has made a poem which ties in perfectly with his own time and place, stripping it off its Polish context and adding a profoundly Dutch one.

Sarbiewski’s ‘Temples’ became a ‘Church’, abstract notions such as ‘Deceit’ and ‘idle gain’ were transformed into more specific ‘Thieves’, ‘Rascals’, and ‘Servants’, ‘A hundred columns’ were turned into ‘seven Pillars’, the danger of discord was made more palpable through ‘the blood of Civilian corpses’, and clear references to Greek mythological geography were erased and replaced by the rather more generally recognisable ‘Sea and Lands’. The recurrence of the number seven, thrown into Ingels’ lap by Sarbiewski himself, underlines the translator’s deeply Dutch meaning, which naturally fares better when expressed in a Dutch landscape of ‘Churches’, and ‘Sea and Lands’. Whether or not Ingels meant to scold the stadtholders and/or Orangists, or simply wanted to voice his worries about social change brought about by libertine or foreign influences we cannot be sure, but his main message is unmistakable: the Dutch Republic must unite and stand as firm as the walls of Thebes. Put simply, then, Sarbiewski’s call for unity between the Poles and Lithuanians has become a call for unity between the Dutch.

As Ingels’ composition was the first published translation of the Sarmatian Horace’s poetry in the Low Countries, it forms an important part of Sarbiewski’s Nachleben in that region: from later accounts we know that Ingels’ work was read and praised, which can only mean that his translation of Sarbiewski’s ode had an audience as well. It would serve, therefore, to investigate what other traces the poem of Amphion has left in Nether­landish literature, as well as to study the remaining Dutch translations of Sarbiewski, and compare them with the Pole’s literary reception throughout Europe, so as to place Ingels’ version in a wider perspective. Moreover, considering the many changes Ingels has made to the original, perhaps we would do well to consider his poem to be the first Dutch adaptation of the Polish poet’s works, rather than a translation. Indeed, the fact that Ingels chose not to name the original’s author, or that his was not the original in the first place, bears witness to the boundaries of a writer’s creative freedom at the time, and the relation between an original and its literary offspring: perhaps Ingels thought it crystal clear that his version was based on Sarbiewski’s lyric, particularly amongst his Jesuit readership, or perhaps it simply did not suit Ingels’ plans to name Sarbiewski, either because of the latter’s fame as a Jesuit poet, or simply because Ingels wanted his readers to think they were reading an original composition. In any case, the poem is a clear exponent of Macrobius’ and Seneca’s literary theory of the author as a bee, picking up nectar as he goes and creating a honey-sweet end result. And in this case, I believe that the end result is sweet enough to be studied and praised in its own right, just as Simon Ingels had intended.