Gezelle had a special relationship with some students. Discover who they were.
(Torhout, 3.6.1840 - Gistel 4.6.1926)
Eugeen van Oye was born into a Torhout doctor’s family who were very active culturally. His parents sent him to the Roeselare minor seminary in autumn 1854 in order to give him a classical education. After playing pranks on a student he was called to Gezelle who acted as supervisor. The dreamy pupil with an interest in poetry must have made an impression on Gezelle early on.
Their bond grew more intimate when Van Oye was taught by Gezelle in his fifth year of secondary school (1857-1858). A close-knit friendship developed between them, the ups and downs of which we can read about in their extensive correspondence. Both sides were largely preserved and can be found in the Gezelle Archives.
Gezelle wrote many poems dedicated to Van Oye. Among them are Dien avond en die rooze (The Evening and The Rose), Ik droome alreê (I’m Already Dreaming), Rammenta ti, Ik misse u (I Miss You) and Een bonke keerzen kind. These are high-quality poems and were often included in anthologies.
Read more about the collection Poems, hymns and prayers.
Read more about the Irish connection with The Evening and The Rose.
Partly influenced by Gezelle, Van Oye felt a calling to become a priest, despite his family’s opposition. During the Christmas holidays of 1858 he abruptly - but not against his will - left the minor seminary to study medicine, first in Louvain and later on in Ghent. From 1870 he was working as a doctor for the international Red Cross and during the Franco-Prussian war he was in France till the end of May 1871. On October 28th, 1876 he married Maria Rumschöttel from Germany.
Even after he left Roeselare Van Oye remained active in the literary field. He became a member of numerous literary circles such as Met tijd en vlijt (With Time and Diligence), ‘t Zal wel gaan (It Will Be Alright) en De taal is gansch het volk (Language is the People’s Core). He compiled his youth poems in Morgenschemer (Morning Twilight) (1874), which contains poems connected to Gezelle. His oeuvre consists of poetry collections, songs, a few plays and literary essays. He was convicted for his position during World War I and wrote about his experience as a political prisoner in Mijn gevangenis (My Prison). In 1919 he was dismissed from his stately duties and excluded from the Royal Flemish Academy for Language and Literature, which he had been a member of since 1905. He died in Gistel on June 4th, 1926.
(Deerlijk, 19.5.1843 - St. Cloud, Parijs, 25.6.1918)
Gustaaf Verriest was only 10 years old when he was sent to boarding school at the minor seminary. Consequently he was the youngest of the class when Gezelle taught him during his fifth year in 1858-1859. Their lifelong correspondence and the numerous poems Gezelle dedicated to Gustaaf bear witness to an especially close relationship between the young, somewhat childish pupil and his teacher. The Verriest family was also very fond of Gezelle, who had studied with their eldest son Adolf.
Hoe licht is toch die sparke vier (How Light is Really That Spark of Fire) (7.8.1858) was written after Gustaaf had a nightmare, but was also dedicated to his older brother Hugo Verriest and to Eugeen Van Oye. Waarom en kunnen wij niet (Why Could We Not)(4.1.1859), Brief (Letter) (12.1.1859), O vriend wat schaadt of baat het ons, (O friend What Harm or Good Does it to Us) (2.2.1859) en Nu of nooit! (Now or Never!) (2.2.1859) were directed personally to Gustaaf Devriest. With those poems Gezelle wanted to support the boy who was seriously considering a call to priesthood and consequently wrestled with a strong sense of weakness and sinfulness.
Eventually Verriest decided to study medicine in Louvain, later in Vienna. He was a general practitioner in Wervik between 1869 and 1873, then moved to Germany to continue his studies. From 1876 till 1911 he was a professor at the Catholic University in Louvain. After Gezelle’s death he tried to find a scientific explanation for the poetic genius of his former teacher.
(Deerlijk, 26.11.1840 - Ingooigem, 27.10.1922)
Hugo Verriest attended the minor seminary in Roeselare (1854-1859), where Gezelle was his teacher for nine months. Some of his school papers are still preserved in the Gezelle Archives. Even though he would become one of Gezelle’s most active supporters, a difference in temperament seems to have thwarted a certain intimacy between them.
The fact that Gezelle explicitly dedicated ‘t Edele spel der vlugge schaverdijnders (The Swift Ice Skaters’ Noble Game) to Verriest in his Gedichten, gezangen en gebeden (Poems, Songs and Prayers 1862) has more to do with Verriest’s important role in collecting and publishing these poems. Somewhat more personal is the unpublished farewell poem Vaer al op de klare beke (Sail upon the Bright Brook) from August 1858.
In 1860 Verriest began his philosophy studies and in 1864 he was ordained as a priest. Subsequently he started teaching at the College of Saint Louis in Bruges (09.06.1864). On September 19th, 1867 he started teaching at the minor seminary in Roeselare, one of his pupils being Albrecht Rodenbach. He educated his pupils according to the spirit of Gezelle. He also played a key role within the “Blauwvoeterij”, a student movement named after the blue-footed fish eagle, reacting against the discrimination of Flemish people and language in Belgian society. As such he was the editor of the student magazine De Vlaamsche Vlagge (The Flemish Flag) which served as a medium for the “Blauwvoeterij”.
Subsequently he became the convent director of the Sisters of Charity in Heule (25.08.1877), superior of the college in Ypres (13.06.1878) and parish priest in Wakken (19.09.1888). On June 19th, 1895 he was appointed as a parish priest in Ingooigem and stayed there until 1912. In 1906 he joined the Royal Flemish Academy for Language and Literature. The Catholic University gave him an honorary degree in the same year. He passed away in 1922.
As an author Verriest wrote romantic impressionistic poems, stories and other prose. Especially memorable among the latter was the portrait series Twintig Vlaamse koppen (Twenty Flemish Heads) (1901). He wrote several biographies about e.g. Guido Gezelle, Stijn Streuvels and Albrecht Rodenbach. He played an important role in the Flemish Movement and was a very passionate public speaker. His lectures made him a significant promotor of Gezelle, even though his perspective was often biased.
(Torhout, 18.08.1839 - Koekelare, 17.07.1913)
Karel De Gheldere was Eugeen van Oye’s cousin. Presumably due to his weak health he was already 19 years old when he reached the fifth year and was taught by Gezelle in 1858-1859. He was an exuberant, cheerful boy and had a good sense of humour. Gezelle alluded to this in the poem he wrote about him: Aan Karel de Gheldere (To Karel de Gheldere).
No priest’s calling for De Gheldere, but he did leave for Louvain in 1860 intending to follow Gezelle as a teacher in England. In the rhymeless poem Tranen (Tears) which Gezelle gifted De Gheldere, Gezelle describes himself as a farmer returning to his home ground after a long time. This is connected to Gezelle’s missionary dream. When the English plans were called off, De Gheldere switched to stuyding medicine.
Quite soon he published his Jongelingsgedichten (Adolescent Poems,1862), most of which date back to his time in Roeselare. Many of these originated as schoolwork. Some of the poems are part of a correspondence in poems with Gezelle, dealing mostly with the teacher-pupil relationship and the writing of poetry. They would repeat this in 1881 with Nachtegale schuifelare (Whistling Nightingale) where they each wrote a stanza alternately. He also wrote Landliederen (Country Songs) (1883) and Rozeliederen (Rose Songs) (1893). He was a corresponding (1889) and active member (1892) of the Royal Flemish Academy for Language and Literature.
(Loo, 26.01.1841 - 23.07.1913)
Edmond (“Mon”) van Hee was a brother of Modest, who died young, and the better-known Alfons van Hee. He initially went to school at the Diksmuide college and in 1855 he became a student at the minor seminary in Roeselare (sixth year in 1861). When he started his fifth year in 1859-1860, this class had already been taken away from Gezelle as a teacher.
However, he and Hendrik van Doorne had been taught a few hours of Flemish and English by Gezelle in their third and fourth year. He was a smart and lively student who was battling psychic problems at the time. After a conversation in Gezelle’s room on December 8th, 1858 they started exchanging poems. On December 11th, Van Hee described himself as a lonely castaway in the poem Kwade driften (Evil Rages). Some days later Gezelle pointed out that he could always count on help from the Church in G’hebt dan ook dat bittere water (Therefore, Thou hast that Bitter Water).
Later on the poems evolved into other themes. Just before Gezelle left for Bruges again, he asked how his former pupil was doing in Hoe vaart gij (How Fares it With You?). Van Hee answered with Hoe da’k nu vare! (How it Fares With Me Now!). After finishing his university studies in Louvain he established himself as a lawyer in Veurne. By way of local politics he joined the Permanent Deputation of the province of West Flanders in 1874.
(Poeke, 16.04.1841 - Poeke, 14.09.1914)
Hendrik Van Doorne first made Gezelle’s acquaintance when he started boarding school in 1854. As boarding school supervisor Gezelle took the homesick thirteen-year-old under his wing and nicknamed him “Poeke”. He also had a good relationship with Van Doorne’s family whom he visited several times at their home.
Gezelle never was Van Doorne’s class teacher, though he did teach him Flemish and English. Yet quite a lot of poems can be related to this particular pupil. Most of them were collected by Van Doorne or were written down by Gezelle in his album. Only a few of those were personally dedicated to him, e.g. ‘k Hoore tuitend’ hoornen (August 1860).
It is no coincidence that those poems predominantly date back to the summer of 1860. When Gezelle subsequently left for Bruges, Van Doorne followed him to the English College and later on the English Seminary in Bruges. In August 1865 he was ordained as a priest and a year later he headed to England. He worked there for about 30 years. Gezelle kept up their correspondence. Around 1902 Van Doorne returned to his ancestral home in Poeke, where he died in 1914.
Vandoorne had a certain literary aptitude and Gezelle imagined him to be a “a new handsome poet”. He helped Verriest with his preparations for Gedichten, gezangen en gebeden (Poems, songs and prayers) (1862) and would also collaborate on Rond den Heerd. Beside a novel he also wrote an unfinished Gedenkboek (Memorial book) about his memories of Gezelle in Roeselare.