Maerlant, Jacob van

Maerlant, Jacob van

(yä`kōp vän mär`länt), c.1235–c.1300, Flemish poet, earliest important figure of Dutch literature. He wrote lyric poems and chivalric verse romances after the French as well as long didactic poems, chief of which is Spiegel historiael, an adaptation of the Speculum of Vincent of BeauvaisVincent of Beauvais
, c.1190–c.1264, French Dominican friar. He was the author of three of the four parts of the Speculum majus, of great value as a summary of the knowledge of his time. The part entitled "Morals" is of unknown authorship, but is not by him.
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. Jacob van Maerlant is an early literary representative of the bourgeois spirit.

Maerlant, Jacob Van


Born before 1235, in Damme, near Brugge; died there circa 1300. Dutch poet. Served as sexton in the village of Maerlant and as governmental clerk in Damme.

Maerlant began his literary activity with free adaptations of chivalric romances; later he contrasted a sober and practical outlook to the courtly heroic style. Writing in the vernacular, he popularized natural science and historical information (Der Naturen Bloeme, c. 1262-66; Spieghel Historiael, c. 1283-88, unfinished). He wrote moralistic and didactic narrative poems and epic and lyrical verses. Depicting the manners and customs of medieval society, he exposed the moral decline of the higher clergy and feudal lords and attacked private property as the cause of social injustice. His world view was expressed in the form of religious heresy. His creative work played a significant role in the formation of the Dutch literary language of the Middle Ages.


Strophische gedichten, 3rd ed. Leiden, 1918.


Arents, A. J. Van Maerlant: Proeve van bibliografie. ’s-Gravenhage, 1946.
Mierlo, J. van. J. van Maerlant. Turnhout, 1946.