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Thursday, 2 January 2014

September 1572, Dearest Kenau, Thinking of Home

View of Haarlem and the Haarlemmer Meer

Jan van Goyen (Dutch, Leiden 1596–1656 The Hague)

September 1572
Dearest Kenau, 

You should be pleased to hear that we have recently set our sails for Haarlem, and expect to be with you soon, though we do have to make a stop for the delivery of some fabric before we reach home. I shall make this brief, as our messenger is hopping from foot to foot to catch the tide. 

Be assured that although the North Sea is a dangerous place for any ship, the waters are, happily, riddled with Sea Beggars, and our passage will be a good deal safer because of it. At all times we are escorted by our loyal friends the Beggars, Aelbert is an excellent sailor, as you know, and our deck-hands have hawk-eyes out for trouble. I must confess myself to a little concern for our safe return to Haarlem, but we are such a piffling merchant ship that the Spanish are unlikely to risk a dog-fight at sea over us. We had a fine couple of Sea Beggar friends aboard last night to share supper with us, who have a Spanish commander chained up in their orlop, bleating like a sheep, they said. You know yourself that the Spanish ships are high-sided and slow in our northern seas, and I always think of you when I see the English ships cutting through the water at such a speed that takes the breath away. 

Sadly, we have heard much of the Spanish fury being inflicted on the little towns and cities, and it is true that they are all over Holland like fleas on a cat. Our Sea Beggar friends tell of the division of opinion at the Cityhouse, but please understand, sister, that this is but a temporary setback, and be assured that good sense will be restored soon enough. The balance of power shall be reinstated, though I cannot write more than this, I beg you to trust that I know this for the fact that it is. There are few people I could write such information to, without throwing them into a useless panic, but I know you shall use it wisely.

With the grace of God we shall be with you before Alva learns how to say the name ‘Haarlem’ correctly. We are closer by the day, Kenau, and we are with you in spirit before body. 

Make sure those geldings are kept safe for my return, I shall need to stretch out my sea legs!

Your ever-loving sister,

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