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Songs from the Eighty Year's War of Independence
Beggar's songs / Geuzenliederen


with music and English translation


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(translated in English)
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Songs from the Dutch Eighty Year's War of Independence (1568-1648):  Beggar's songs / Geuzenliederen.

In 1555 King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598) inherited the Low Countries. The Duke of Alba (Fernando de Toledo), a Spanish General, became Governor of the Netherlands.

There was much tension and discontent about: religion (Spain was catholic, the northern Netherlands protestant); taxes (Spain enforced 10% taxes, the so called 'tenth penny'/'tiende penning'); and the constrainment of the power of the Dutch noblemen.

In 1568 the Dutch revolt started, under the leadership of Prince William of Orange (Willem van Oranje, 1533-1584). Many battles, sieges, defeats and victories followed.

In 1584 Willem van Oranje was murdered and succeeded by Prince Maurits, and after him by his youngest son Prince Frederik Hendrik, both very talented Captains General. The war ended with the Peace of Münster (1648), which meant the birth of the independent Dutch Republic (or the 'Seven United Provinces').

The Dutch rebels were called 'Beggars'/'Geuzen' and 'Sea Beggars'/'Watergeuzen', a nickname they embraced. During the eighty years of war, many Beggar's songs / Geuzenliederen were written.

Many of these songs remained well-known through the centuries. The songs, of Dutch fighting against an enemy, were especially beloved and frequently sung again during the Second World War. Afterwards many of these 'geuzenliederen' were included in folk song songbooks and sung for many more decades.




  'Beat on the army drums' (ca. 1566)
  about: beginning of Dutch Revolt



Beat on the army drums, like dirre dom deine
beat on the army drums, like dirre dom does
beat on the army drums, like dirre dom deine
"Long live the Geus" is our device!


        Slaet op den Trommele van dirredomdeinne,
        Slaet op den Trommele van dirredomdoes;
        Slaet op den Trommele van dirredomdeine,
        Vive le Geus, is nu de Loes.


Those Spanish pustules, like a plague spreading
those Spanish pustules, cunning and mean
those Spanish pustules, under the pope's robe
those Spanish pustules, growing non stop.


        De Spaensche pocken, licht als sneeuw vlocken,
        De Spaensche pocken, loos ende boos;
        De Spaensche pocken, onder sPaus rocken,
        De Spaensche pocken, groeyen altoos.


Spanish inquisition, in God's eyes evil
Spanish inquisition, like dragon's blood
Spanish inquisition, once will be punished
Spanish inquisition, will lose the game.


        De Spaensche Inquisitie, voor Godt malitie,
        De Spaensche Inquisitie, als Draecx bloet vel;
        De Spaensche Inquisitie, ghevoelt punitie,
        De Spaensche Inquisitie, ontvalt haer spel.


Long live the Geus, live like a good Christian
long live the Geus, keep up your courage
long live the Geus, God will keep you from sinning
long live the Geus, all true Christians.


        Vive le Geus, wilt Christelick leven,
        Vive le Geus, houdt frayen moet;
        Vive le Geus, Godt behoed u voor sneven,
        Vive le Geus, edel Christen bloet.


Pope and all papists, God makes you tremble
pope and all papists, become desperate
pope and all papists, need an indulgence
pope and all papists, merciless, cruel.


        De Paus en Papisten, Godts handt doet beven,
        De Paus en Papisten, zijn teynden haer raet;
        De Paus en Papisten, wreet boven schreven,
        Ghy Paus en Papisten, soect nu Oflaet.


My Prince, you're princely a Prince of the Beggars
princely you reign us in spirit, in truth
princely we bow in your honour, adore you
princely your realm will grow and expand.


        Princen, der Princelijcker Geusen Prince,
        Princelick met u Gheest haer doch regeert;
        Princelick drijvense u Eer, aldus bemintse,
        Princelick wert u Rijck alsdan vermeert.



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  Lyrics: M. Arent Dirksz. Vos.
Dating: ca. 1566-1569.
Melody: 'Bedructe hertekens'.

Commentary: Arent Vos (1500-1570) was a catholic pastor, but became a protestant vicar after the iconociasm (1566). Herefore he was sentenced to death (executed in 1570). In the last two years of his life, he wrote multiple Beggar's Songs / geuzenliederen.

Content: This song, right at the beginning of the Dutch Revolt, is a passionate charge against Spain and the church in Rome.

The Spanish are a plague and the Spanish inquisition (papistic court-house) is evil in God's eyes. The Beggars / Geuzen are true christians (protestant) and the Prince (Willem van Oranje) is our true ruler, who will win in the end.

So beat the war drums, under the war cry: 'Vive le Geus', 'Long live the Beggar'!

Recording: Camerata Trajectina is a music ensemble from Utrecht, specialised in Dutch music from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.

CD: The peace of Münster / De vrede van Münster (1998). This cd is still available in their webshop (camerata-trajectina.nl).

Sources (Dutch Song Database):
•  Nieu geusen lieden boecxken (1581)
•  P. Wackernagel, Lieder der niederländischen Reformierten (1867)
•  F. van Duysen, Het oude Nederlandsche lied (1903)
•  Pollmann en Tiggers, Nederlands volkslied (1941, 1956, 1977)

dutch flag the netherlands holland   Lyrics 'Slaat op den trommele' on Dutch website: Nederlandse volksliedjes S.
 







  'Now help yourself' (1571)
  about: resist the Duke of Alba, the tenth penny



Now help yourself and you help God
out of the chains of the tyrant,
so frightened and cornered Low Countries,
you have the rope around your neck
take action and be courageous.


        Help nu u self, so helpt u Godt,
        Uut der Tyrannen bant en slot,
        Benaude Nederlanden,
        Ghy draecht den Bast al om u strot,
        Rept flucx u vrome handen.


The Spanish vicious haughtiness
brought here an ungodly hangman
to destroy our devotion.
His lectures wipe out God's real word
he tries to grab your money.


        De Spaensche hoochmoet valsch en boos,
        Sant u een Beudel Goddeloos,
        Om u Godloos te maken,
        Gods woordt rooft hy door menschen gloos,
        En wil u t'gelt ontschaken.


We have to pay one out of ten
after a while there's nothing left.
The wool is all for shepherds
but this wolf wants more than wool or milk
he'll kill and skin the whole flock.


        Want gheeftmen dick van thienen een,
        Daer blijft ten lesten een noch gheen,
        Wol mach een Herder stillen,
        Dees Wolf is met wol noch melck te vreen,
        Hy wil de schaepkens villen.


Surely don't give this tenth penny
to mercenary Duke Alba
he will defile our country.
If you pay he has the funds
to bind us, to repress us.


        Verdient dan sulck 'n Huerlinck fel,
        Den thienden Penninck niet seer wel,
        Om t'Nederlant te schinden?
        Gheeft ghy hem die, soo maeckt ghy snel
        Den bant om u te binden.


Oh Netherland, with heavy heart
you stand in front of life and death
might serve the Spanish tyrant
or you resist and you revolt
and join the Prince of Orange.


        O Nederlant, ghy zijt belaen,
        Doot ende leven voor u staen;
        Dient den Tyran van Spangien,
        Of volcht (om hem te wederstaen)
        Den Prince van Orangien.



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          ©  copyright translations


  Lyrics: anonymous.
Dating: 1571.
Melody: 'Rijck Godt hoe is mijn boelcken dus wilde'.

Commentary: The Duke of Alba (Fernando de Toledo, 1507-1582) was a Spanish General and Governor of the Low Countries during the first part of the Eighty Year's War. He was commissioned by King Philip II of Spain. The Duke of Alba enforced a ten percent tax (extremely high in those days), called 'the tenth penny'/'de tiende penning'. This led to a financial conflict on top of the religious conflict (catholic-protestant) between the Dutch and the Spanish.

Content: Song about the Duke of Alba. This Duke is a godless hangman - not a shepherd who is satisfied with the wool of his sheep, but a wolf who wants to skin everyone. You can pay the tenth penny and help him to repress us; or resist and follow Prince William of Orange (Willem van Oranje).

Recording: Camerata Trajectina is a music ensemble from Utrecht, specialised in Dutch music from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.

CD: The peace of Münster / De vrede van Münster (1998). This cd is still available in their webshop (camerata-trajectina.nl).

Sources (Dutch Song Database):
•  Een nieu Guese Liede Boecxken (ca. 1576)
•  J.F. Willems, Oude Vlaemsche liederen (1848)
•  Lange, Riemsdijk en Kalff, Nederlandsch volksliederenboek (1913)
•  Veldkamp en De Boer, Kun je nog zingen (1938, 1972)
•  Pollmann en Tiggers, Nederlands volkslied (1956, 1977)

dutch flag the netherlands holland   Lyrics 'Help nu uzelf, zo helpt u God' on Dutch website: Nederlandse volksliedjes H.
 







  'The music, singing' (1572)
  about victory: the capture of Brielle



The music, singing, drums and flutes
must sound to honour God
and let the organ, harp and lute
ascend towards the Lord.
The change is near
he's turning away
Duke Alba the tyrant.  (bis)


        Laet sang en spel, tambour en fluyt,
        Nu klincken tot Gods eer;
        Dat Orgel, Chiter, Harp en Luyt,
        Oock opgae voor den Heer,
        Die haest wel van
        Ons keeren kan
        Duc d'Alve den Tyran.


We praise the goodness of our God
looks after us so well.
He's given us Den Briel and Maas
as stronghold and safe base.
The change is near
he's turning away
Duke Alba the tyrant.  (bis)


        Gods goetheyt wesen moet vertelt,
        Die noch so voor ons sorgt,
        En ons den Briel en Mase stelt
        Als tot een vaste borgt,
        Die haest wel van
        Ons keeren kan
        Duc d'Alve den Tyran.


We have the Spaniards on a leash
a bit in their foul beaks.
And we thank God, in heaven high
for all eternity.
The change is near
he's turning away
Duke Alba the tyrant.  (bis)


        De Spanjaert wert nu een gebit
        In synen muyl geleyt;
        God sy, die daer om hooge sit,
        Gedanckt in eeuwicheyt,
        Die haest wel van
        Ons keeren kan
        Duc d'Alve den Tyran.


Thou Lords and Princes in our land
free us of those Spaniards,
let's hold out hands in loyalty
and with respect to God.
The change is near
he's turning away
Duke Alba the tyrant.  (bis)


        Ghy Princen/ Heeren van ons Land,
        Maeckt ons de Spanjaert quijt,
        Malcand'ren trouw'lyck biet de hand,
        In Godes vrees' altyt,
        Die haest wel van
        Ons keeren kan
        Duc d'Alve den Tyran.



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  Lyrics: Adriaen Valerius.
Dating: 1572.
Melody: 'Engelsche Foulle' or 'Walsch Wallinneken'.

Commentary: Adriaen Valerius (ca. 1575-1625) was municipal councillor in Veere (the province of Sealand) and member of the Chamber of Rhetoric 'Growing in pure grace'/'In reynder jonste groeijende'. He wrote many Beggar's Songs about the Eighty Year's War of Independence (1568-1648). These were published by his heirs a year after he died.

This songbook, Dutch sounds of commemoration / Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626), remained famous through the centuries. The songs, of Dutch fighting against an enemy, were especially frequently sung again during the Second World War.

Content: Song of praise. The Sea Beggars have seized the city Den Briel (or: Brielle, 1572). This is a turning point in the revolt. The course of the war has taken a favourable turn. Thank God. The Spanish tyrant, the Duke of Alba, certainly will eventually be chased away.

Recording: Camerata Trajectina is a music ensemble from Utrecht, specialised in Dutch music from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.

CD: Banish the tyranny / Die tyranny verdrijven (1979). This cd is still available in their webshop (camerata-trajectina.nl).

Sources (Dutch Song Database):
•  A. Valerius, Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626)
•  F. van Duyse, Het oude Nederlandsche lied (1903)
•  D.F. Scheurleer, Van varen en van vechten (1914)
•  Veldkamp en De Boer, Kun je nog zingen (1938, 1972)
•  Pollmann en Tiggers, Nederlands volkslied (1977)

dutch flag the netherlands holland   Lyrics 'Laat zang en spel, tamboer en fluit' on Dutch website: Nederlandse volksliedjes L.
 







  'William of Nassau' (1570)
  about: William, Prince of Orange, Earl of Nassau



William of Nassau, scion
of a Dutch and ancient line,
I dedicate undying
faith to this land of mine.
A prince I am, undaunted,
of Orange, ever free,
to the king of Spain I've granted
a lifelong loyalty.


        Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
        Ben ick van Duytschen Bloedt,
        Den Vaderland ghetrouwe
        Blijf ick tot inden doet;
        Een Prince van Orangien
        Ben ick vry onverveert.
        Den Coninck van Hispangien.
        Heb ick altijt gheeert.


A shield and my reliance,
o God, Thou ever wert.
I'll trust unto Thy guidance,
o leave me not ungirt.
That I may stay a pious
servant of Thine for aye
and drive the plagues that try us
and tyranny away.


        Mijn schilt ende betrouwen
        Zijt ghy, O Godt, mijn Heer.
        Op U soo wil ick bouwen,
        Verlaet my nimmermeer;
        Dat ick doch vroom mag blijven
        U dienaer t'aller stond
        Die tyranny verdrijven,
        Die my mijn hert doorwondt.



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  Lyrics: uncertain.
Dating. 1570
Melody: 'Chartres'.
Translation: website Royal House.

Commentary: This Beggar's song / Geuzenlied was written in (or just before) 1570. It consists of 15 verses and is an acrostic: the first letters of each verse form the name: 'Willem van Nazzov', that is: William, Prince of Orange, Earl of Nassou (who was the leader of the Dutch Revolt, Father of the Nation).

This song remained beloved over the centuries. In 1932 it was chosen to be the national anthem of the Netherlands (only above verses 1 and 6 are sung).

Content: This song is written in the first person, as if William of Orange is speaking himself to the Dutch. He talks about the revolt and his own, personal struggle: to be faithful to the king of Spain, without being unfaithful to his conscience and to the Dutch people (William was catholic himself, but was sympathetic to the protestants and believed in freedom of religion).

Translation: Different from the rest of the website, this translation wasn't made by Rozemarijn, the creator of this site, but it is the official translation from the website of the Royal House.

Sources (Dutch Song Database):
•  Een nieu Guese Liede Boecxken (ca. 1576)
•  Het Nieuwe Nassouse trompetje (1675)
•  De vrolyke kramer (ca. 1780)
•  F.R. Coers, Liederboek van Groot-Nederland (1897)
•  Veldkamp en De Boer, Kun je nog zingen (1911, 1938, 1972)
•  Pollmann en Tiggers, Nederlands volkslied (1941, 1956, 1977)

dutch flag the netherlands holland   Lyrics 'Wilhelmus van Nassouwe' on Dutch website: Nederlandse volksliedjes W.
 







  'Pour out your tears' (1584)
  about: the murder of William of Orange



Pour out your tears, weep loudly, cry and grieve!
It's like my heart is bursting, ripped and torn!
Ah day, ah day! Ah dark and woeful day!
I only hear lamentations and wailing.


        Stort tranen uyt, schreyt luyde! weent en treurt!
        Och't dunct my dat myn herte barst en scheurt!
        O dag! o dag! o doncker droeve dag!
        Wat isser al gehuyl en groot geklag!


Ah Netherland, your ruler, prince, so brave
he was the flower of the Orange tree!
He guarded us against the Spanish scum
this virtuous man, alas, is murdered now!


        O Nederlant! u Vorst, u Prins soo vroom!
        Die daer de blom was van d'Oranjen-boom!
        Die door syn deucht, u van het Spaensch gesoord
        Soo heeft beschermt; leyt nu eylaes vermoord!



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          ©  copyright translations


  Lyrics: Adriaen Valerius.
Dating: 1584.
Melody: 'Engelsche Fortuyn'.

Commentary: Adriaen Valerius (ca. 1575-1625) was municipal councillor in Veere (the province of Sealand) and member of the Chamber of Rhetoric 'Growing in pure grace'/'In reynder jonste groeijende'.

He wrote many Beggar's Songs about the Eighty Year's War of Independence (1568-1648). These were published by his heirs a year after he died. This songbook, Dutch sounds of commemoration / Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626), remained famous through the centuries.

Content: Lamentation. Prince Willem van Oranje (1533-1584), the leader of the Dutch Revolt, Father of the Nation, is murdered.

In 1580 Spain outlawed Prince Willem van Oranje and offered a reward for his death. Several attempted murders followed. In 1581 the Dutch Parliament ratified the Act of Abjuration / Plakkaat van Verlatinghe: the official declaration of independence (changing the Revolt into an outright independence war). In 1584 Willem's youngest son was born, Frederik Hendrik.

On 10 juli 1584 Willem van Oranje was shot to death in Delft. His alleged last words would have been: "My God, have mercy with me and this poor people". He was succeeded by his son Prince Maurits and after him his youngest son Prince Frederik Hendrik - both very successful Commanding Officers in the Eighty Year's War.

Recording: Camerata Trajectina is a music ensemble from Utrecht, specialised in Dutch music from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.

CD: Banish the tyranny / Die tyranny verdrijven (1979). This cd is still available in their webshop (camerata-trajectina.nl).

Sources (Dutch Song Database):
•  A. Valerius, Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626)
•  D. de Lange, Nederlandsch volksliederenboek (1913)
•  Veldkamp en De Boer, Kun je nog zingen (1938, 1972)

dutch flag the netherlands holland   Lyrics 'Stort tranen uit, schreit luide, weent en treurt' on Dutch website: Nederlandse volksliedjes S.
 







  'Notice the strong, forceful efforts' (1622)
  about: the siege of Bergen op Zoom



Notice the strong, forceful efforts they make
they fight against our precious freedom such a long time.
Watch how they slave, dig and run violently
for our belongings, our blood and also our cities.
Hear the Spanish drums drumming loud
hear the trumpets of the Spaniards.
See they're marching towards the town
to siege the Brabantian city Bergen.
Berg op Zoom remain brave
stop the Spanish troops
save the Scheldt and it's fence
remain faithful and loyal.


        Merck toch hoe sterck Nu int werck sich al steld!
        Die 't allen ty Soo ons vryheyt heeft bestreden;
        Siet hoe hy slaeft graeft en draeft met geweld!
        Om onse goet En ons bloet En onse steden;
        Hoor de Spaensche trommels slaen!
        Hoor Maraens trompetten!
        Siet, hoe komt hy trecken aen!
        Bergen te besetten.
        Berg op Zoom Hout u vroom,
        Stut de Spaensche scharen;
        Laet 'sLands boom End' syn stroom,
        Trouw'lyck toch bewaren.


Bloody and raging and brave is our sword
shining and rattling and sparks were shooting all around there.
Trembling and movement, the earth spurting out
roaring and thundering, all upside down through violence.
Every day you heard the blasts
the explosions in the city walls.
Many military tents
burned down, many Spaniards were killed
Berg op Zoom remained brave
stopped the Spanish troops
saved the Scheldt and it's fence
remained faithful and loyal.


        'tMoedige bloedige woedige swaerd
        Blonck en het klonck dat de voncken daer uyt vlogen.
        Beving En leving opgeving der aerd,
        Wonder gedonder Nu onder was, nu boven,
        Door al't mijnen en 't geschut
        Dat men daeg'lycx hoorde;
        Menig Spanjaert in zyn hut
        In syn bloet versmoorde.
        Berg op Zoom Hout sich vroom;
        'tStut de Spaensche scharen;
        'tHeeft 'sLands boom En syn stroom
        Trouw'lyck doen bewaren.


Our Prince of Orange attacked the Spaniards
held off the violence, he was a hero in the battle.
But when Spinola had heard of his deeds
he joined the fight and he gathered all his lords and forces.
Cordoba beat the retreat
victory was not within their grasp,
Don Velasco was so mad
both commanders were just powerless.
Berg op Zoom remained brave
stopped the Spanish troops
saved the Scheldt and it's fence
remained faithful and loyal.


        Die van Oranjen quam Spanjen aen boord,
        Om uyt het velt als een Helt 'tgewelt te weeren;
        Maer also dra Spinola 'theeft gehoord,
        Treckt hy flocx heen Op de been met al zyn Heeren.
        Cordua kruyd spoedig voort,
        Sach daer niet te winnen;
        Don Velasco liep gestoort:
        't Vlas was niet te spinnen.
        Berg op Zoom Hout sich vroom
        'tStut de Spaensche scharen;
        'tHeeft 'sLands boom En syn stroom
        Trouw'lyck doen bewaren.



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          ©  copyright translations


  Lyrics: Adriaen Valerius.
Dating: 1622.
Melody: 'Comedianten dans'.

Commentary: Adriaen Valerius (ca. 1575-1625) was municipal councillor in Veere (the province of Sealand) and member of the Chamber of Rhetoric 'Growing in pure grace'/'In reynder jonste groeijende'.

He wrote many Beggar's Songs about the Eighty Year's War of Independence (1568-1648). These were published by his heirs a year after he died. This songbook, Dutch sounds of commemoration / Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626), remained famous through the centuries.

Content: Song about the siege of Bergen op Zoom (Brabant). Supreme Commander Ambrogio Spinola and Don Luis de Velasco sieged the city for three months in 1622, but it was courageously defended and eventually liberated by Prince Maurits of Orange. The Spaniards lost over 7.000 soldiers, partly due to desertion.

Recording: Camerata Trajectina is a music ensemble from Utrecht, specialised in Dutch music from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.

CD: The peace of Münster / De vrede van Münster (1998). This cd is still available in their webshop (camerata-trajectina.nl).

Sources (Dutch Song Database):
•  A. Valerius, Nederlandtsche Gedenck-Clanck (1626)
•  F.R. Coers, Liederboek van Groot-Nederland (2) (1898)
•  F. van Duyse, Het oude Nederlandsche lied (1903)
•  Veldkamp en De Boer, Kun je nog zingen (1911, 1938, 1972)
•  Pollmann en Tiggers, Nederlands volkslied (1941, 1956, 1977)

dutch flag the netherlands holland   Lyrics 'Merk toch hoe sterk nu in 't werk zich al stelt' on Dutch website: Nederlandse volksliedjes M.
 







  'Hear, thou citizens' (1648)
  about: Peace after 80 years of war



Hear, thou citizens, hear thou farmers (bis)
hear, thou lords and thou servents.
Hear I announce to you peace with the Spaniards
and with the Prince of Orange.
Hear, thou skippers, skippers troubled by the god of war
Mars is beaten now and crushed.


        Hoort, ghy Borgers, hoort ghy boeren,
        Hoort, hoort, knechten en Heeren,
        Hoort, ick vercondighe den Peys van Spagnien,
        Gesloten met Orangien.
        Hoort ghy Schippers die door Mars sijt heel verstoort:
        Mars is in den gront geboort.


Hear, hear thou Muses, all on Mount Helicon
together with Apollo:
the villain that was harmful
to art and prosperity
he's banished out of our Low Countries,
the peace chased him away with great dishonour.
Sing now, villages, cities
welcome, welcome peace, welcome peacetime.


        Hoort, hoort ghy Musen op Helicon vergaert,
        Met uwen Prins Apollo:
        Den vyant uwer jonsten,
        Die schaedde uwen konsten,
        Mars is verdreven uyt ons Nederlanden,
        Den Peys heeft hem verjaeght met groote schanden.
        Singht dan, dorpen en steden:
        Wil'kom, willekom peys, willekom vrede.


He's banished out of our Low Countries,
the peace chased him away with great dishonour.
Sing now, villages, cities
welcome, welcome peace, welcome peacetime.


        Mars is verdreven uyt ons Nederlanden,
        Den Peys heeft hem verjaeght met groote schanden.
        Singht dan, dorpen en steden:
        Wil'kom, willekom peys, willekom vrede.



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          ©  copyright translations


  Lyrics: pseudonym ('From forest and field').
Dating: 1648.
Music: G.G. Gastoldi.

Commentary: On 5 June 1648 the Peace of Münster was formally declared. Days of festivities followed. Several songs to praise the peace were written on Italian melodies and sung especially during official events.

Content: Hymn, song of praise. Hear citizens and farmers, lords and servents: the war is over, a peace treaty is signed! The war has been harmful for trade, shipping, art and prosperity. But now we welcome peace.

Recording: Camerata Trajectina is a music ensemble from Utrecht, specialised in Dutch music from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century.

CD: The peace of Münster / De vrede van Münster (1998). This cd is still available in their webshop (camerata-trajectina.nl).
 



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