Rhijnvis Feith en Melancholiese Gesangdigting in die Voortrekkervrou Susanna Smit se Godsdienstige Dagboeke

Keywords: hymnody, Pietism, Rhijnvis Feith, Romanticism, Susanna Smit, Voortrekker community


The Dutch Evangelical hymnbook, introduced in the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlandsch Hervormde Kerk) in 1807, contained 192 religious songs authored by poets from diverse religious backgrounds. The themes of these hymns covered a wide spectrum: meditations on the attributes of God, faith, trust in God’s omnipotence, prayer, death, and the Christian’s life with Christ. Hymn writers from a broad spectrum of religious persuasions—like Christian Gellert (1715–1769), Friedrich Klopstock (1724–1803), Georg Neumark (1621–1681), Jodocus van Lodenstein (1620–1677) and Isaac Watts (1674–1748)—contributed directly or indirectly towards the hymnbook. The hymnbook drew criticism from Reformed circles as deviating from the scriptural truths, subverting the Reformed faith, propagating salvation through human endeavour and reflecting Enlightenment values in opposition to the orthodox Reformed faith. Furthermore, it was criticised for being sentimentalist and promoting earthly love, peace and patience based on humanist principles. Throughout the nineteenth century, Reformed authors, the likes of Hendrik de Cock, Dirk Postma, Pierre Dammes Marie Huet and S.J. du Toit, objected to Feith’s hymns as hymnody deviating from the Reformed conviction. In spite of such criticism, Feith’s hymns remained popular in Reformed circles. In addition, the Voortrekker woman, Susanna Smit, found Feith’s hymns inspiring under dire circumstances and trials on the South African frontier. In spite of her formal commitment to the Reformed faith, Susanna relied heavily on the spiritual strength she drew from Feith’s hymns. Under the influence of German Romantic literature, Feith’s hymns inspired and/or undergirded the same sentiments in her spiritual mentality profile.

Author Biography

Andries Gerhardus Raath, University of the Free State
Department of History