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Excerpt from translation for Hofwijck, the Huygens Museum

Constantijn Huygens

Now, traveller, enter, Hofwijck garden will be accounted for
Have patience, I will report the very least,
And not hold still about the very most. Thereupon my audience must rely:
Never does a planter tire of travelling his own land,
Or talking of his own land, muttering about his own land;
When it rains that it pours, he thinks it's a bit damp,
When it's damp, the weather is sweet, when it storms it is but cool,
And, he who harbours this lust, does not feel nought.

(Hofwijck poem, lines 957-964)

A courtier and a gardener

Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) was a versatile man; as well as being an admired wit he was a poet and a gifted composer. He played many instruments and was an arts connoisseur of note. He was also the architect of two beautiful buildings and a garden that became the talk of the town. All this of course was a mere sideline; a distinguished gentleman such as himself could not professionally occupy himself with these affairs. Constantijn was an able diplomat and the dedicated secretary of three consecutive Orange stadhouders.

All his life Constantijn strove passionately for peace and harmony. The latter he found through the Roman architect Vitruvius. Vitruvius held the view that harmony was to be found in the proportions of the human body. Peace Constantijn hoped to find in the rural area surrounding The Hague. On the 25th December, 1639, Constantijn bought a piece of land near Voorburg from Jacob van Adrichem. This piece of land stretched all the way from the Vliet to the Lijtwech, now named the Prinses Mariannelaan. The land is dissected by the Heerwech, now named the Westeinde.

A paradise in God's image

On the 15th February, 1640, Constantijn spent the evening with the architect Jacob van Campen in Haarlem. Was this perhaps where the decision was made to put Vitruvius' principles into practice, by outlining the human body in the blueprint of the grounds? In a long court poem titled Hofwijck, Constantijn described in detail how the estate came into being thanks to the collaboration between Jacob van Campen and Pieter Post.

When you stand before the Voorburg train station, your eye is naturally drawn along long rows of Spanish oaks in the direction of the Vliet waterway. In the distance stands the Hofwijck country house, a seventeenth-century cube with a pyramid-shaped roof rising high above the tranquil water of the surrounding pond. The murals (grisailles) appear from afar to be monumental statues, pondering the cycle of seasons in the garden. They have witnessed many generations of inhabitants and colourful guests, fickle love affairs and desperate loneliness. They have also had to watch helplessly as their domain was encroached upon by the railway dyke. Very few train travellers will realise that even the view from the station itself is historical. It stands where once the master builder Constantijn Huygens constructed a raised hill with a watchtower, from where one could overlook the garden and its design following the outlines of the human body.