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What Is National Anthem Of Netherlands: History, Oldest Anthem In The World. Photo amazon

Oldest national anthem in the world

The official Dutch national anthem is the Wilhelmus.

The Wilhelmus was officially adopted as the national anthem in 1932, but it was written between 1569 and 1572. This makes it the oldest national anthem in the world.

Who is the author?

The poet and diplomat Philips of Marnix, Lord of Saint-Aldegonde wrote the Wilhelmus. The Wilhelmus has 15 verses. Usually, only verses 1 and 6 are sung. The first letters of each verse spell out the name 'Willem van Nassov'.

The melody of the Wilhelmus originated during the siege of the French city of Chartres in 1568. The melody as sung today comes from the collection Nederlandtsche Gedenck-clanck (1626) by Adriaen Valerius. The Wilhelmus has 15 verses, the first letters of which together spell the name WILLEM VAN NASSOV (William of Nassau). In the eighteenth century it became the song of the Orangists (the supporters of the House of Orange), but was not yet the official anthem.

Another fact about the anthem that is often in dispute is the use of the word “Duitsen” in the second line of the first verse. Often translated as “German”, William’s birthplace indeed lies in modern-day Germany, however, Germany as a nation would not exist for another 300 years (the area still being known as the “Holy Roman Empire”). Only in modern Dutch has “Duits” come to mean “German” in all uses. Others have interpreted the word to mean “of the people”, which of course makes it more inclusive of the Dutch people. This site prefers “Germanic” as the translation; the original lyrics read “van Duytschen bloet”, “Duytschen” referring not to Germany (as it has been established that there was no such nation at the time), but to the lowlands area, which includes the modern-day Netherlands and certain areas of Germany, including where William of Orange was born; the word therefore highlighted William’s local origins. “Germanic” may be the best modern word to cover the original intent and area inferred.

Deciphering the lyrics of the Dutch national anthem

Photo easy Dutch info
Photo easy Dutch info

When the Wilhelmus was first played in the 18th century, it was done without text. It was mainly played on a trumpet and carillon, as the song itself turned into a kind of marching melody, which later became known as the Prinsenmars. While very few people knew the text back then, the Wilhelmus was one of the most popular hymns amongst the populace.

The hymn consists of fifteen couplets, the first letters of which form the name Willem van Nassou. It’s written from the perspective of William of Orange as if it were sung by him. The only problem being, there is no actual evidence that he ever sang the song. In the hymn, William of Orange’s conflicted mind comes to light. On one hand, he wants to remain loyal to the Spanish King, Philip II, but on the other hand, he wants to serve God and lead his people in the fight against tyranny and oppression. The first and second stanzas read:

William of Nassau

am I, of German blood.

Loyal to the fatherland

I will remain until I die.

A prince of Orange

am I, free and fearless.

The king of Spain

I have always honoured.

To live in fear of God

I have always attempted.

Because of this, I was ousted

bereft of my land and my people.

But God will direct me

like a good instrument.

So that I may returnto my domain.

The heart of the hymn still remains:

Like David, who was forced to flee

from Saul, the tyrant.

I had to sigh,

as did many other nobles.

But God raised him,

relieving him of despair,

and gave him a kingdom

very great in Israel.

Lyrics of the Wilhelmus (in Dutch)

Photo Getty
Photo Getty

The first known reference to the lyrics dates from 1572. The words are generally attributed to Philip van Marnix, Seigneur of Sint Aldegonde, secretary to William of Orange.

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.

In Godes vrees te leven

Heb ick altijt betracht,

Daerom ben ick verdreven

Om Land, om Luyd ghebracht:

Maer Godt sal my regeren

Als een goet Instrument,

Dat ick sal wederkeeren

In mijnen Regiment.

Lijdt U, mijn Ondersaten,

Die oprecht zijn van aert,

Godt sal u niet verlaten

Al zijt ghy nu beswaert:

Die vroom begheert te leven,

Bidt Godt nacht ende dach.

Dat Hy my cracht wil gheven

Dat ick u helpen mach.

Lijf ende goed al te samen

Heb ick u niet verschoont,

Mijn Broeders, hooch van Namen,

Hebbent u oock vertoont:

Graef Adolff is ghebleven,

In Vrieslandt in den Slach,

Sijn siel int eewich leven

Verwacht den jonghsten dach.

Edel en Hooch gheboren

Van Keyserlicken stam:

Een Vorst des Rijcks vercoren,

Als een vroom Christen-man,

Voor Godes Woort ghepreesen,

Heb ick vrij onversaecht,

Als een helt zonder vreesen

Mijn edel bloet gewaecht.

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.

Val al die my beswaren,

End mijn vervolghers zijn,

Mijn Godt wilt doch bewaren

Den trouwen dienaer dijn:

Dat sy my niet verasschen

In haeren boosen moet,

Haer handen niet en wasschen

In mijn onschuldich bloet.

Als David moeste vluchten

Voor Saul den tyran:

Soo heb ick moeten suchten

Met menich edelman:

Maer Godt heeft hem verheven,

Verlost uit alder noot,

Een Coninckrijck ghegheven

In Israël, seer groot.

Na tsuer sal ick ontfanghen

Van Godt, mijn Heer, dat soet,

Daer na so doet verlanghen

Mijn vorstelick ghemoet,

Dat is, dat ick mag sterven

Met eeren, in dat velt,

Een eeuwich rijk verwerven

Als een ghetrouwe helt.

Niets doet my meer erbarmen

In mijnen wederspoet,

Dan dat men siet verarmen

Des Conincks landen goet,

Dat ud de Spaengiaerts crencken,

O edel Neerlandt soet,

Als ick daeraen ghedencke,

Mijn edel hert dat bloet.

Als een Prins opgheseten

Met mijnes heyres cracht,

Van den tyran vermeten

Heb ick den slach verwacht,

Die, by Maestricht begraven,

Bevreesde mijn ghewelt;

Mijn ruyters sach men draven

Seer moedich door dat velt.

Soo het den wil des Heeren

Op die tijt had gheweest,

Had ick geern willen keeren

Van u dit swaer tempeest:

Maer de Heer van hier boven

Die alle dinck regeert,

Die men altijt moet loven,

En heeftet niet begeert.

Seer christlick was ghedreven

Mijn princelick ghemoet,

Stantvastich is ghebleven

Mijn hert in teghenspoet,

Den Heer heb ick ghebeden

Van mijnes herten gront,

Dat Hy mijn saeck wil reden,

Mijn onschult doen oircont.

Oorlof mijn arme schapen,

Die zijt in grooten noot.

U Herder sal niet slapen,

Al zijt ghy nu verstroit:

Tot Godt wilt u begheven,

Sijn heylsaem woort neemt aen,

Als vrome Christen leven,

Tsal hier haest zijn ghedaen.

Voor Godt wil ick belijden

End sijner grooter macht,

Dat ick tot gheenen tijden

Den Coninck heb veracht:

Dan dat ick Godt den Heere,

Der hoochster Majesteyt,

Heb moeten obedieren,

In der gherechticheyt.

Translation of the lyrics of the Wilhelmus

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.

I 've ever tried to live in

The fear of God's command

And therefore I've been driven

From people, home, and land,

But God, I trust, will rate me

His willing instrument

And one day reinstate me

Into my government.

Let no despair betray you,

My subjects true and good.

The Lord will surely stay you

Though now you are pursued.

He who would live devoutly

Must pray God day and night

To throw His power about me

As champion of your right.

Life and my all for others,

I sacrificed, for you!

And my illustrious brothers

Proved their devotion too.

Count Adolf, more's the pity,

Fell in the Frisian fray,

And in the eternal city

Awaits the judgement day.

I, nobly born, descended

From an imperial stock.

An empire's prince, defended

(Braving the battle's shock

Heroically and fearless

As pious Christian ought)

With my life's blood the peerless

Gospel of God our Lord.

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.

My God, I pray thee, save me

From all who do pursue

And threaten to enslave me,

Thy trusted servant true.

O Father, do not sanction

Their wicked, foul design,

Don't let them wash their hands in

This guiltless blood of mine.

O David, thou soughtest shelter

From King Saul's tyranny.

Even so I fled this welter

And many a lord with me.

But God the Lord did save him

From exile and its hell

And, in His mercy, gave him

A realm in Israel.

Fear not 't will rain sans ceasing

The clouds are bound to part.

I bide that sight so pleasing

Unto my princely heart,

Which is that I with honour

Encounter death in war,

And meet in heaven my Donor,

His faithful warrior.

Nothing so moves my pity

As seeing through these lands,

Field, village, town and city

Pillaged by roving hands.

O that the Spaniards rape thee,

My Netherlands so sweet,

The thought of that does grip me

Causing my heart to bleed.

Astride on steed of mettle

I've waited with my host

The tyrant's call to battle,

Who durst not do his boast.

For, near Maastricht ensconced,

He feared the force I wield.

My horsemen saw one bounce it

Bravely across the field.

Surely, if God had willed it,

When that fierce tempest blew,

My power would have stilled it,

Or turned its blast from you.

But He who dwells in heaven,

Whence all our blessings flow,

For which aye praise be given,

Did not desire it so.

Steadfast my heart remaineth

In my adversity

My princely courage straineth

All nerves to live and be.

I've prayed the Lord my Master

With fervid heart and tense

To save me from disaster

And prove my innocence.

Alas! my flock. To sever

Is hard on us. Farewell.

Your Shepherd wakes, wherever

Dispersed you may dwell,

Pray God that He may ease you.

His gospel be your cure.

Walk in the steps of Jesu

This life will not endure.

Unto the Lord His power

I do confession make

That ne'er at any hour

Ill of the king I spake.

But unto God, the greatest

Of Majesties I owe

Obedience first and latest,

For Justice wills it so.

Why do the Dutch honour the Spanish king in their anthem?

The Netherlands (together with other parts of the Low Countries, including modern day Belgium, Luxembourg, along with some parts of Northern France and Western Germany) were under Spanish rule from 1581 to 1714.

Under the leadership of William of Orange (also known as William the Silent, or Willem van Oranje, in Dutch), the Netherlands broke free from Spanish rule in what would later come to be known as the Eighty Years' War (or the Dutch War of Independence, from 1568 to 1648).

Both William of Orange and his father had served King Philip of Spain, prior to the Eighty Years' War. Although William had taken a pledge of allegiance to the king, he saw his first and foremost duty to the people of the Low Countries. Therefore, although he rebelled against “his” king (King Philip of Spain), he continued to respect and revere him as the monarch to whom he swore his allegiance.

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