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Moreover, the meaning originally attributed to some of the games has been changed or extended significantly. Jan Pietersz.

Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, RP-P The lines on kiting show both kinds of changes. The fragment now has two stanzas of fourteen and twelve lines. The first stanza goes as follows:. In all their simplicity, the additional lines refer to an important aerodynamic principle: the kite string is not only the power that pulls the kite up against the wind, it is also the power that ensures that it remains in the air.

So far, the general moral is clear: he who strives for vanities, loses the connection to the essential moral principles and is bound for disaster. But then, we see a striking turn. The second stanza, which half consists of new lines, elaborates on this rather obvious, generic moral in a way that in our opinion does not refer to human life in general, but to the contemporary political situation. In the second stanza, Cats makes it abundantly clear why he has introduced the theme of the string as the support, and the dramatic fall.

The Emergence of the Dutch Republic

He uses them to include a reference to recent events in the young Republic — the dramatic fall of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who fell from grace with Stadtholder Maurice, Prince of Orange, and was beheaded in Here, the ambitious, vain man is given a specific face: someone who failed to realise that the prop or pillar of his position does not consist of his own ambition, but of the favour of the prince. Cats offers a completely opposite interpretation: not Oldenbarnevelt, his walking stick and his conscience are the props of the state, but the Prince of Orange and the favour he bestows on the statesman and his ambitious desire.

Incidentally, when we look at the picture, it now strikes us that a not unimportant aspect of the kite has gone unmentioned in the poem: the tail. With his depiction of the falling kite the artist achieves a very special effect. As pointed out by Lessing in his famous Laocoon essay, art differs from poetry in that the former has no obvious means at its disposal to represent the passing of time. Through a child who lets a tame sparrow fly, Cats thematises the idea of the Dutch Republic as a free territory.

Another child in the print has a sparrow on a string, and as Cats tells us, reigns the bird back in each time it wants to escape and fly away. Yet another message is indicated here:. The Oldenbarnevelt drama has been removed from view. Playing children. The return to one single kite in front of the Binnenhof, as a symbol for the ideal polity of the Dutch Republic, highlights yet another aspect of the kite: the fact that when it has climbed up high in the sky, the kite causes wonder and awe.

Although fragile in nature, the kite of State, when firmly set in the sky, can be the object of wonder and fascination for all those looking up to it. For a young state, first perceived as a political anomaly, but admired for, amongst other things, its technological achievements, the choice of the technology of kiting as a symbol of a strong state seems well-chosen.

It is therefore remarkable that, as far as we know, no-one has ever indicated these opportunities for political interpretation. The symbolic interpretation of the kite as an illustration of ambition and inevitable fall, as undertaken by Cats, was continued.


The Rise of the Dutch Republic Volume 25: 1577, part II

If you lie about your origins and pretend to be of high birth, people will eventually unravel the mystery of your descent:. In the same way, many a man plays the lord today, but when one starts to investigate his family, when one would haul in the string of his origins, then one would happen upon paper or cloth, that is to say, on parents from humble origins. But the string on which the kite flies has now become the line of descent, which, once hauled in, shows that the miracle was only paper and that this seemingly eminent person is in fact a nobody.

The tail is here no more than a symbol for the frisky dash of the ambitious man in general. Poirters does not refer to any political issues. In the Northern Netherlands, after the Truce Troubles and the Westphalia Treaty in , the kite also seems to enter a quieter time. During the First Stadtholderless Period — , kites in prints, poems and emblems are predominantly flown by innocent children.

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The crisis of the Rampjaar Disaster Year , however, apparently raised a new need for political kites. In the veritable deluge of pamphlets on the crisis and its aftermath a pamphlet was published, containing a long song titled De Fransche vlieger hor The French Kite Astray, Here, the kite represents the common project of the four invading allies. The English were supposed to be fallen angels, and thus men with tails, devils or bulldogs. Built with French dash and furnished with rented materials, this kite is obviously unstable. This vacant and unpredictable behaviour is here the paragon of French vanity and fashionable twisting:.

That is the very reason why this kite will come to an inglorious end. From various corners, allied whirlwinds rise. The kite starts to flounder and to turn and eventually goes astray, it comes loose, and starts drifting. The string is broken and the tail drops from its bottom.

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The author ends sarcastically:. In this way, the song, employing the relatively new literary motif of the kite, can play with existing stereotypes of the frivolous, ambitious Frenchmen and the English tails. It builds up a layered, symbolic representation, a representation of an instable international alliance shattered by a strong headwind. Among many other things:. We can confidently state that for a considerable period, it had a stable place in the Dutch cultural memory.

That is to say, the song was included in his posthumous collection Minne-liederen en Mengelzangen Love Songs and Miscellaneous Poems. Andries Pels, Minne-liederen en mengelzangen , 91— In , the widow Gijsbert de Groot, a notoriously indiscriminate pirate printer, gave a new turn to the song.

Once again, a French kite is used to represent Louis XIV , but this time, it is fitted with a nose in the shape of a Turkish moon. The song largely rehashes the well-known motifs: a French haughty, frisky kite with an English tail and a Turkish nose, out of balance and in disarray. This demonstrates that by the end of the seventeenth century the symbolic interpretations supplied by Cats and Pels had become fixed and recognisable layers of meaning.

All the same, this version of the song does add one new component. It offers more detail and more technical terms, especially as regards the launching of the kite. The kite then shot up into the air, more than twenty miles in the wind. This fresh French kite song effectively summons the kiting memories of the reading public. From their childhood, the adults of the year could probably remember the tension of launching a kite — an insightful image for the tension of political or personal ambition, military conflict or the search for a balance of power.

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For that very reason, the kite could continue to surface as a metaphor. Another instance is the financial crisis of Various pamphlets depicted kites, in combination with wind mills, bellows, balloons, storms and other references to the wind. In the cartoon Uitslag van de windnegotie Consequence of the Wind Trade, , the string breaks and the kite is blown away on the strong winds fig. In De verslagen actionist in de rinkelstoel The Defeated Stock Trader in the Feeding Chair with Bells, , the kite loses its tail, laden with stocks fig.

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And the anonymous poet has the last laugh:. In this way, the mocking of the Bourbon braggart with his French political ambition is transposed onto the unbridled lust for profit of the stock trader. Many pamphlets typify this lust for profit as typically French: the Netherlands are assumed to have been affected by a virus originating from France, through the magical financial system of John Law. But an identification of the kite with the House of Orange returns in the s.

In that period, the position of Willem Karel Hendrik Friso a. William IV , the first hereditary Stadtholder, was very much contested.

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We do not know who the boy is; possibly, the initials on the kite, N. In any case, it is clear that through these ornaments, the pear-shaped kite becomes a declaration of support to the House of Orange. From the perspective of this painting the apparently innocent kite scene by Justus van Gelder fig. And should we interpret this as a declaration of allegiance in the struggle about what was to be the preferred flag for the Republic, at the beginning of the s?

And now, we also notice the yellow lilies in the foreground.