Sunday, 8 August 2021

A.L. Snijders: 'Fatsoen'




My father worked for MAHEZ, Machine Handel Enschede & Zonen. He would rather have become a violinist, but his cold-blooded grandfather, who he was lodging with, had smashed his violin to pieces and thrown it out the window. There was no money for a new violin, so he worked for MAHEZ. He began from the bottom and ended his career as a managing director. He did not love trade nor traders, he loved music, he used to sit every week in the Concertgebouw and at home used to listen to Mahler and Bruckner. He had a neighbour who always rang at the door if the music was on too loud. This neighbour was extremely respectable, he involved himself with everything that was unrespectable. His daughter was a pupil at Amsterdams Lyceum, so he regularly involved himself with the teaching. He made a complaint when he noticed that the French teacher had dealt with a quatrain by François Villon (born in 1431). He found it improper.


The name François through life I tow,

Born near Pointoise some years ago,

Soon will a noose my neck let know

The true weight of my arse below.


The teacher was extremely fond of people who use the word improper and in the following lesson he dealt with a ballad by the same poet, in which the following lines might be able to cause offence.


On a soft-cushioned couch a fat priest lay.

Beside a brazier in a room well-draped

And white, attentive, tender and well-shaped

Right next to him the lady Sidoine lay,

They drank mulled hypocras, both night and day,

They laughed and played, they cuddled and they kissed,

And, naked both, enjoyed their lovers’ tryst…*


The teacher was not dismissed, but the shocked father probably sent his daughter to another school. I like to hear things about people who live according to their principles.



*The Dutch translation only features fragments of three lines: ‘Night and day in the feather bed/naked flesh against naked flesh, they played their amorous duet./And drank wine and feasted on fine food’. The original read: Sur mol duvet assis, un gras chanoine,/Lez un brasier, en chambre bien nattée,/A son côté gisant dame Sidoine/Blanche, tendre, polie et attintée,/Boire hypocras, à jour et à nuitée,/Rire, jouer, mignonner et baiser,/Et nu à nu, pour mieux des corps s'aiser…’

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