Jacob us Revius: Dutch Reformed Poet

The poem “Bloedige Sweet” was written by the Dutch Calvinist poet, Jacobus Revius. It appeared in 1630 in the first volume of Over-Ysselsche Sangen en Dichten—a collection of Revius’ religious poems arranged in Scriptural order. “Bloedige Sweet” is one of those poems in which Revius contemplates the suffering Savior. The poet exhorts his “lazy soul” to do what all Christians may well do as they approach Good Friday: to hasten to Gethsemane to see the weeping, sweating Savior; to note that the red blood of Christ transforms all that it touches; and to discover the miraculous new “flower” of Jesus’ goodness and love which springs from the sacrificial blood.

Dr. Henrietta Ten Harmsel, Associate Professor of English at Calvin College, is currently engaged in translating many of Revius’ poems into English. The Reformed community will undoubtedly be particularly interested in reading the truly fine poetry of this minister of the Dutch Reformation. TORCH AND TRUMPET, therefore, presents in this issue the Dutch version of “Bloedige Sweet” together with Miss Ten Harmsel’s English translation.

Our next issue will present an article in which Dr. Ten Harmsel will comment on the poem—its translation, its form, and the imagery by which Revius makes vivid the redemptive power of Christ’s blood. Readers are urged to save this month’s issue, since the critical analysis of ‘“Bloedige Sweet” will refer often to specific words, images, lines, and stanzas of the poems as they appear here.

Bloedige Sweet

Trage siel, die in my slaept Geeut en gaept, Wilt u bruygom niet vergeten. Waket op, en comt hem dra Volgen na Inden hof van Oliveten.

Siet hoe hem u Schepper buckt, Onder druckt Door u eysselijke sonden. Siet hoe hem sijn teere huyt Berstet wt In wel duysent-duysent wonden.

Ah! sijn sweet is enckel bloet, Met een vloet Stralende van sijne leden Ah! de aerde drinckt haer sat In het nat Sijpende van sijne treden.

En my dunckt dat ick aenschou Desen dou Opwaerts inde bladen trecken; Was t’angierken niet snee-wit,  Dat nu sit Oversaeyt met bonte plecken?

T’blonde roosken gloeyt sijn schoot Sangels-root; En de bleecke Tulibanten Sijn verkeert (of droomtet my?) Op de ry In gemengde flamboyanten.

Maer een bloem int duyre bloet Opgevoet Sie ick wter aerden comen; O hoe liefelijken bloem! Die den roem Allen cruyden heeft benomen.

Godes milde goedicheyt Wtgebreyt Over die de sonden rouwen Is haer alder-soetste naem, Hullepsaem Diese met geloof aenschouwen.

Droeve siel, die in my weent, Sucht en steent Wilt dees bloeme neit vergeten; Ider hofken dat ghy siet Draechtse niet Maer den hof van Oliveten.



Bloody Sweat

Lazy soul, why do you cry. Yawn, and sigh? Waken now and follow me. See, your Bridegroom now has gone To the lone Garden of Gethsemane.

See how your Creator weeps, Bends, and creeps Underneath your load of sin. Thousand-thousand crimson tears Trickle here From His tearing, bursting skin.

See His sweat is really blood Like a flood Streaming forth from every limb. All the thirsty earth can drink (So I think ) Of those drops that fall from Him.

Look, and you will notice, too, That this dew Colors stem and leaf and bud. That carnation once snow-white Now is bright With dark spots of crimson blood.

That white rose now shoots a bud Red as blood,  And those tulips, pale and dead, Are transformed (Is it not so?) Row by row Into bright flamboyant red.

But what is that flower fair Springing there From this holy, bloody ground? Lovely flower that will replace By its grace All the flowers that can be found?

“Jesus’ goodness, Jesus’ love, Spread above All who sorrow for their sin”  Is its name, surpassing sweet, Rich, replete, Healing balm for helpless men.

Sorry soul, why do you moan, Grieve and groan? Keep this flower in memory. Do not seek it everywhere, Only there: Garden of Gethsemane.