"Uw lijden is mijn' pijne." Huygens in dialoog met Seneca


Christophe Van der Vorst


The long consolatory poem for the blind, Ooghentroost, written by the Dutch
seventeenth-century poet, Constantijn Huygens, looks like an intricate web
of dialogues. The text is first of all a letter from Huygens to Lucretia van
Trello, an older friend of the author who suffered from cataract. One can
regard this poem also as a collection of links between the lines in Dutch and
the margin of the poem, a subtext of references to the oeuvres of diverse
authorities such as playwrights (Euripides, Seneca, ... ), philosophers (Plato,
Cicero, ... ), poets (Homer, Ovid, ... ), Church Fathers and the Bible. In this
paper I examine one specific dialogue - a conversation between Huygens and
Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Huygens frequently refers to Seneca's philosophical
and literary work but his entretien with the Roman writer is not in the least
unproblematic. To fit Seneca's stoic ideas into his own Christian discourse on
those who are morally blind the poet cannot but manipulate the words of his
illustrious interlocutor.