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Looking for Dutch speakers to help translate April Fool’s Day poem from 1561
In my article about the origin of April Fool's Day, which I wrote a few years ago, I noted that the first explicit reference to April 1st being a day for pranks can be found in a poem written in late-medieval Dutch (around 1561) by Eduard De Dene. The title of the poem is "Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach." Marco Langbroek kindly translated this for me as: "Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April."

But it recently occurred to me that although I knew about the poem, and had the title translated, I had never seen the full text of the poem itself. And in fact, I don't believe the poem has ever been translated into English. To me, this seems like a glaring omission in our knowledge of the history of April Fool's Day.

So I've tracked down the poem, which originally appeared in De Dene's work Testament Rhetoricael. I found it on the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren. I've copied it below, but the version on the dbnl includes a few extra footnotes.

I'm hoping the internet can do its magic and help me get this poem translated. Any Dutch speakers out there? Marco? I'm guessing the language in the poem may be a bit of a challenge even for native Dutch speakers.

Categories: April Fools Day, Literature/Language
Posted by The Curator on Thu Mar 15, 2012
Comments (12)
Working on it.....
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  01:11 PM
That is to say: even for me as a Dutchman, this is very difficult...this will take me a while...
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  01:14 PM
Thanks, Marco. I also posted a plea over at reddit, in their Dutch-speakers subreddit:

http://www.reddit.com/r/nederlands/comments/qxtyk/the_earliest_reference_to_april_fools_day_occurs/

Already got a few comments... people noting that it's really difficult and that a specialist in medieval Flemish might be required to really nail down a translation.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  01:25 PM
I am not sure I can fully translate this all - large fragments yes, but the full text, no, too many words where I am at a loss....

In terms of what the poem is about: basically, a Master is sending his servant to several towns and villages in the southern Netherlands for all kinds of things (mostly foods, but also "nude women") claiming to plan a wedding. But the servant fears he is sent on a fools errand, as he noted it is "errand day". So while the Master pours out a bucket-list of errands, the servant at several times interjects he fears he is sent on a fools-errant. Which the master then denies, adding even more tasks to do.

The text has a lot of place-names by the way which definitely place this story in the southern Netherlands - i.e. Belgium and the southern provinces of the current Netherlands. Most place-names are Belgian.
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  01:51 PM
Even that brief description is helpful because it helps me confirm that this poem is a completely unambiguous reference to April 1st being an "errand day" -- or a wild-goose-chase day. And De Dene's use of the term suggests his readers would have been familiar with the idea. That is, by 1561 April Fool's Day must have been an established tradition in the Netherlands.

Which means there's good reason for believing that April Fool's Day originated in the Netherlands and Germany, because there are no references to the celebration in English until the late 1600s, and then the first two references speak of it being a Dutch or German tradition.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  02:48 PM
This below is the best I can make of it: note that there are large fragments I am at a total loss what it means (also, an * in front denotes a place or province name, or what is likely a place name ):

REFRAIN OF 'Verzenderkens dag' (errands day)
WHICH USED TO BE THE FIRST OF APRIL

Quickly, my groom [i.e., servant], free [or beautiful ?] and proud
with ... [???] will I have my wedding [grey? Fast?]
Therefore, he has to plow the beanfield [??]
But first, I will send you to the western quarter
In *Kortrijk you will have pastries be baked
To *Dunkirk you shall go for rabbits
For drinks, to *winnocxberghe
In *thilleghembusch you shall ... [??]
Roosters you shall buy in *Meesene
In *Moerbeke you shall find good cream
If I am pleased [?] / you shall organise [?] the wedding
Well, Master, you speak well / but there is a "but"
I fear you try to send me on a fools errand

No, before I send you a quack [?], I prefer to be dead
Travel to *Oostende for mustard / so the need will
At *Denthelgem you will speak to the porridge eaters
Get me salt from *Biervliet too in a ...[??] boat
Don't let me lack in *Brugge mussels either
Nor *Blankenbergse ... [??] for a few weeks
Bring [pepperplant?] from *Eecloo, the bride likes it
Discuss in *Coolkerke ..... [??]
Turnips you'll find in *Brabant, at least in the past

....Master ....
and is is said here, before I will go away
That it is versendekens dag (errands day, i.e. April Fools day)
So I fear you try to put me on a fools errand

Really, no, I [shall not quickly forget that?]
Do you think I [slaughtered?] the liars of *Aardenburg
No, I don't, that would be wrong
Therefore, to my wedding [belongs?] by day and night
I want to receive ...[gossipping people?] from *Ofstede
Let the sleepers of *Voorne also be on the side
Do not invite [those who refuse to work?]
....from *Theemseke, leave them alone
Also .... the flat [boorish ?] people from *sledynghen
the .... from *Ronsse you shall quickly go by too
as well as the fighting gangs of *Kassel
But master, in all that you want me to do
I fear you try to have me run a fools errand

Prince [?]


Quickly go on [?] / Willingly will ... [panhandle?]
The more so because you will ?????...
And away from it you shall drive, that you must know
That the children of *Ypres ...[?] will come strew
The naked women [? or shy women?] you'll find sitting in...[?]
...[?] of the free, [pray avoid them?]
No braggers ....[?] or they argue
The tax collectors of *Repelmonde say ... [something about free and secrets?]
To collect the wedding tax each as he wants
Then Master do that yourself As without glasses
I did not see how I should keep this up
And even more It is the first of April
I fear you try to have me run a fools errand.
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  03:53 PM
*applauds for LaMa*

Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  07:37 PM
Such a handy person is LaMa. Three cheers for LaMa.
Posted by Peter  in  Melbourne, Australia  on  Thu Mar 15, 2012  at  09:00 PM
I see LaMa did it so my job is done.
No sweat.
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Thu Mar 22, 2012  at  03:53 PM
Google Translate
Posted by Captain Obvious  in  Bible Belt  on  Thu Mar 22, 2012  at  07:46 PM

REFRAIN OF 'Verzenderkens dag' (errands day)
WHICH USED TO BE THE FIRST OF APRIL

Quickly, my groom [i.e., servant], reliable and brave
with regret [?] I will have my wedding soon
Therefore, he has/you have to plow the beanfield
But first, I will send you to the west
In *Kortrijk you will have pastries be baked
To *Dunkirk you shall go for rabbits
For drinks, to *Winnocxberghe
In *Thilleghembusch you shall [get a type of fish?]
Roosters you shall buy in *Meesene
In *Moerbeke you shall find good cream
Do this for me / you shall organise [?] the wedding
Well, Master, you speak well / but there is a "but"
I fear you try to send me on a fools errand

No, really, before I blabber like a fool, I prefer to be dead
Travel to *Oostende for mustard / so the need will
At *Denthelgem you will speak to the [porridge eaters?]
Get me salt from *Biervliet too in a ...[??] boat
Don't let me lack in *Brugge mussels either
Nor *Blankenbergse shrimps for a few weeks
Bring onions from *Eecloo, the bride likes it
Discuss vegetables in *Coolkerke
Turnips you'll find in *Brabant, at least in the past

....Master ....
and is is said here, before I will go away
That it is versendekens dag (errands day, i.e. April Fools day)
So I fear you try to put me on a fools errand

Really, no, I am not that frivolous in thought
Do you think I am related to the liars of *Aardenburg?
No, I don't, that would be wrong
Therefore, it doesn't associate with my wedding by day nor night
(nor) I want to receive gossippers from *Ofstede
Let the [sleepers? boring people?] of *Voorne also be left aside
Do not invite drunks from *Wervik
Nor conmen from *Theemseke, leave them alone
[...] Also the monks from *Sledynghen see
the [?] from *Ronsse you shall quickly go by too
as well as the fighting gangs of *Kassel
But master, in all that you want me to do
I fear you try to have me run a fools errand

Prince [i.e., refrain?]


Really, make haste, hurry yourself
You think you will drink a too heavy brew?
And from there you will travel, and you should know this
That the children of *Ypres will come strew [..?]
The poor/simple women you'll find sitting in...[?]
...burners[?] of the free, [pray avoid them?]
No braggers ....[?] or they argue
Be free to tell the tax collectors of *Repelmonde my secret
To collect the wedding tax each as he wants
Then Master do that yourself. As without glasses
I do not see how I should keep this up
And even more It is the first of April
I fear you try to have me run a fools errand.
Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Sun Mar 31, 2013  at  06:35 PM
I think I did a better translation now, with the help of an on-line database of medieval words and sayings. Some things now make sense and better fit the context. Still, there are parts that elude me, especially near the end. But I now have the following translation (NB: when a word starts with a capital, it is a place name. The place names mentioned are all in the historic area of Flanders: e.g. modern Belgian Flanders, Dutch Flanders (SW Netherlands), and the Dunkirque area in NW France. For convenience and to discern them from untranslatable words, I have marked all place names with a "*" in front)

Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Sun Mar 31, 2013  at  06:36 PM
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