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
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.