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Wilhelmus van Nassouwe

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Wilhelmus van Nassouwe (William of Nassau) is the national anthem of the Netherlands. The name is often abbreviated to 'Het Wilhelmus' (The William).

The text was written somewhere between 1568 and 1572, in honour of William of Orange (also known as William of Nassau), during the Dutch revolt against the Spaniards, the Eighty Years War. The author was probably Marnix van St. Aldegonde.

When the The Netherlands became a kingdom in 1815, the song was not chosen as its national anthem, because it was too connected to the party that supported the House of Orange-Nassau. However its popularity never waned, and in 1932 it became the national anthem after all.

This is the first stanza, modernized a great deal:

 Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
 Ben ik van Duytschsen bloedt 
 Den vaderland ghetrouwe
 Blijf ik tot in de dood
 Een Prins van Oranje
 Ben ik vrij onverveerd
 Den Koning van Hispanje
 Heb ik altijd gheeŽrd

To give a translation of this stanza is hard, because almost every line has several possible interpretations. Unfortunately, the author is no longer around to fill us in on what he meant.

Anyhow, a hopefully not too contestable try:

 William of Nassau,
 I am, of Germanic descent
 True to the fatherland
 I remain until death
 A Prince of Orange
 Am I, free and fearless
 To The king of Spain
 I have given a lifelong loyalty 

(The last two lines are often interpreted to mean that the leader of the Dutch war against Spain had no specific qualms with the king, but rather with his emissaries in the Low Countries; it may also be sheer sarcasm. "German" in the text refers to the German Holy Roman Empire, of which the Netherlands were a part as well. The county of Nassau is also located in present-day Germany.)

Usually only the first stanza is sung. When another stanza is sung, it is usually the sixth:

 Mijn schild ende betrouwen
 zijt Gij, o God mijn Heer
 op U zo wil ik bouwen
 Verlaat mij nimmermeer
 Dat ik doch vroom mag blijven
 uw dienaar t'aller stond
 de tirannie verdrijven
 die mij mijn hart doorwondt

An English translation of the sixth stanza can be found through clicking on the third link below.

The anthem is an acrostic, which in this case means the first letters of the fifteen stanzas form the name 'Willem van Nassav' (van means 'of' or, as in this case, 'from').

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