FALL 2009



Here's a little shout out to one of America's first poets -- Nicasius De Sille, born 23 Sept 1610 in Arnheim, Netherlands to Laurens De Sille and Walburga Everwijn, his father being a burgomaster there.

DeSille was a military man and administrator in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands. But along with the more well known Jacob Steendam, he was also a poet -- one whose work offers a glimpse into the history of the times and attitudes of people who made the colony work.

De Sille’s grandfather was a statesman in the Netherlands, it seems, serving at one point as an Ambassador who visited England, France and Denmark. As for the subject of this piece, before emigrating to New Netherlands Nicasius served as a captain and as an advocate before the Court of Holland. In 1654 he was commissioned by the Dutch West Indian company to serve as an adviser to Peter Stuyvesant. Though temporarily replaced in that role by the notorious Cornelius Van Tienhoven, the ruthlessness of the Van Tienhoven reign -- chronicled in accounts of the infamous "peach massacre" which costs the lives of about 40 Dutch settlers -- resulted in the re-appointment of De Sille.

During his career De Sille, in the role of provincial councilor, participated in law making; in his service as "schout fiscal" acted as sheriff and prosecuting attorney. The schout's duties combined in a primitive fashion those of a sheriff and district attorney. He prosecuted offenders, executed judgments, and supervised the order of the town. Nicasius De Sille used to complain that when he made his rounds after dark, the boys would annoy him by shouting " Indians! " from behind the fences and raising false alarms.

He also became one of the first twenty patentees of New Utrecht (a section of today's Brooklyn) in 1657, is considered by some to be its founder, and began disseminating his poetry while there. His poems were included in a volume entitled Description of the Founding or Beginning of Nieuw Utrecht, which he wrote in the capacity of town secretary.

De Sille enjoyed his time spent in New Utrecht and his poetry reflects this.

In a poem about his adopted land, 'The Earth Speaks To Its Cultivators,' De Sille praised the climate of the New World ("Mother of all I was; but little did they care/If what I might bring forth did ever breathe the air/But heat and sunshine now - a bright and genial sky/Infuse in me new life and nourishment supply") and was bemused by his people's accomplishments there

And when I had no name, you gave the name to me
Utrecht, unrenowned, for my fertility
An honor great this is, but bide my future fame
I now am satisfied by the honor of my name,
By grain and orchard fruit, by horses and by kine,
By plants and by a race of men -- all growth of mine

Here is another excerpt of his poetry:

Here lies the first of Courtelyou from life withdrawn,-
The first child in the village of our Utrecht born;
Brought forth in innocence, snatched hence without a stain,
God gave it being here, a better life to gain.

In all, three volumes of his work are said to have been published -- joining the work of Jacob Steendam, widely considered to be America's 'first Dutch Poet,' and the man who penned the volume "Den Distelvink" and published it in 1661.




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