Le Bonheur de ce Monde (1579)

Christophe Plantin

What do you need to be happy? Plantin knows the answer: enjoy the beautiful things life has to offer and be at peace with dying.

illustratie: lees in nederlands

Het werelds geluk

Een schoon en fleurig huis, een tuin met ranken langs de muren,
een beker flonkerende wijn en vruchten in de schaal,
geen al te talrijk kroost, geen last en geen schandaal,
een trouwe vrouw die helpt het huisgezin besturen.

Noch schulden noch gedingen noch geschillen met je buren,
om have en om erf geen zorg en geen kabaal,
en zonder hoge voorspraak, zonder nijd om de rivaal,
je zedelijke kracht uit een bezonken inzicht puren.

Geen waarheid schuwen, voor geen zwarigheden zwichten,
je zonder schroom, in godsvrucht, onderwerpen aan je plichten,
je driften meester blijven en ze richten naar je wil.

Je vrijheid bewaren, in geweten en gedachten,
je ziel tot God verheffen in gebed en vreedzaam, stil,
in eigen huiselijke kring de dood afwachten.

Vertaling Ward Ruyslinck


Alternatieve vertaling

Het gelukkige leven

Een huis te hebben dat gemakkelijk, passend, mooi is
Een tuin bekleed met geurige spalieren*
Vruchten, uitstekende wijn, weinig gevolg, weinig kinderen
Alleen en zonder opspraak en trouwe vrouw te hebben.

Geen schulden of bijzit, geen geschil of twist
Geen boedel te hoeven delen met verwanten
Met weinig tevreden zijn, zich niet op machthebbers verlaten
Men moet al zijn plannen op een juist model baseren.

Vrijmoedig en zonder eerzucht te leven
Zonder voorbehoud zich aan de vroomheid wijden
Zijn begeerten te beteugelen en ze gehoorzaam maken.

Zijn vrije geest bewaren en ook zijn krachtig oordeel
Zijn rozenkrans te bidden terwijl men zijn stekjes ent
Dit is: zachtkens en bij zich thuis te wachten op de dood.

Hertaling: Adriaan van der Staay
* spalier: houten frame t.b.v. leiden/ondersteunen fruitbomen


Listen to this poem in French.
Voiced by: Céline Zaepffel

illustratie: ontdek dit gedicht in 1 minuut

This poem in 60 seconds

Plantin worked his way up from being a poor orphan to the most renowned printer of his time. When he was in his sixties, he wrote down all the life lessons he had learned during the course of his life. How does one become happy? Family life was very satisfying, and a house, a garden and good wine made life pleasurable. But happiness was above all a choice. As a humanist, Plantin strongly believed that everyone could make something of his or her life. Anyone going about this in a composed, critical and devout manner could die happily in old age.

Want to know more? On this website you can listen to the poem, discover its origins and its author and find out what the poem means to the people of Leiden.

Christophe Plantin

Christophle Plantin (Christoffel Plantijn)

Saint-Avertin ca. 1520 - Antwerpen 1589

Christophe Plantin grew up as a poor orphan, but managed to work his way up and became the most well-known printer and publisher of his time. His printing establishment had 16 presses and more than 80 employees at its peak. For a long time, he worked from Antwerp, a metropolis in those days, but spent his time between 1583 - 1585 in Leiden.

Plantin in Leiden

After Leiden University was founded in 1575, there was a great need for a printer who could spread the knowledge. The university administration succeeded in attracting Plantin to Leiden, partly due to his personal contact with certain scholars. From Huis Assendelft on the Breestraat in Leiden, he published roughly one hundred books. His sea atlas, printed in Leiden, was the first Dutch printed book which contained illustrations made by copperplate printing. Plantin was also the first in the Netherlands to print Hebrew letters. His work gave international status to the young university.

Religious wars

Plantin lived in a time in which the printed word was under serious scrutiny. Printing offered unprecedented new possibilities, among which the spreading of new religious ideas. Plantin had to constantly navigate between clients. He did a lot of work on behalf of the Spanish king Philip II (1527 - 1598), a devout Catholic, but also worked for the Protestant Leiden University. His departure from Leiden was partly caused by this field of tension: he was pressured into publishing a book which would rub his Spanish employers the wrong way, and returned to Antwerp.

illustratie: over dit gedicht

What's this poem about?

This poem is about happiness. What do you need in order to be happy? Plantin starts his answer with possessions: a house and a garden, some good wine. A harmonious family life is very important, and a good relationship with your neighbors, friends and acquaintances. But he pays most of his attention to the inner self. Happiness can be achieved by being honest, sticking to your beliefs, controlling yourself and by living a devout life.


Man is in control of virtually everything Plantin mentions. The poem invites everyone to be critical, to make your own choices and to stop following authorities slavishly. This is the philosophy of Humanism, a philosophy of life introduced to the Netherlands a century before by Erasmus (1466 - 1536). Both Erasmus and Plantin were devout Christians, as is the speaker of the poem, according to the final lines. They believed that it was the duty of every human being to make the best of life.


Plantin wrote his poem in the form of a sonnet. This form of poetry originates from Renaissance Italy and was very popular among humanists. In the Renaissance, many classical authors were rediscovered, among others Marcus Valerius Martialis (ca. 40 - ca. 102), who listed the conditions for a happy life in his epigram X.47. Many contemporaries of Plantin were inspired by this, but chose their own content. For example, Martialis praised money that was not earned but inherited - this did not fit very well with Plantin’s Humanistic ideal, in which self-development was central.

illustratie: ontstaan van dit gedicht

Origin story

This poem is, as far as we know, the only poem written by Christophe Plantin. It was presumably written after William the Silent (1533 - 1584) visited Plantin’s printing establishment in Antwerp in December 1579. Even though Plantin was very famous at the time, a visit from a prince was certainly not an everyday occurrence. Some scholars assume that Le Bonheur de ce Monde (The Happiness of this World) was specially printed for this occasion.

illustratie: ik heb een verhaal bij dit gedicht

Share your story

Does this poem hold a special place in your heart? For example, do you remember when you first read the poem? Or did you come across it someplace unexpected? Let us know at muurgedichten@taalmuseum.nl! We would love to add your story to our website.

illustratie: gedicht in leiden

Christophe Plantin in Leiden

Photo Anoesjka Minnaard

Christophe Plantin came to Leiden in 1583. He set up his printing establishment on Breestraat, where the student clubhouse of L.S.V. Minerva is currently located. Soon he also had a bookshop in the city, on the Academieplein. He left Leiden after two years, but the printing establishment remained. His work was carried on by his son-in-law, Frans van Ravelingen (1539 - 1597), and then by his three sons. In 1965, the publishing company Brill - which originates from Plantin’s printing establishment - placed a commemorative plaque on the wall of the Minerva building in honor of the two men. Since 2015, Minerva’s library committee organizes the annual Plantijnlezing (Plantin lecture).

Wall poem

The poem Le Bonheur de ce Monde (The Happiness of this World) was the subject of the inaugural lecture of Prof. Adriaan van der Staay PhD when he became a professor of cultural history at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in 1993. When he retired in 1998 as the director of the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), his coworkers gave him this wall poem as a gift. It can be found on Hooigracht because Van der Staay currently lives there. Another place they had in mind was near the Hooglandse Kerk, but they did not receive permission for this. Then, they thought about the Italian restaurant ‘Pino’ located on the corner of Kaasmarkt/Hooigracht, which seemed appropriate as Van der Staay also owns a house in Italy.


Plantin collaborated with several contemporary letter designers for his printed works, among others Claude Garamond (ca. 1480 - 1561). His font is still widely used, and was also the font in which Plantin printed the poem for the first time. Jan Willem Bruins applied the poem to the wall by example of this first print. Van der Staay’s signature can also be found on the bottom right.

illustratie: wist je dat

Fun facts

  • The printing press with which Plantin printed his poem can be found in the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp. It is still used today to print copies of the poem.
  • Plantin’s most significant work, Biblia Regia, is a multilingual edition from the Bible which came about with the support of Spanish king Philip II. It contains Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramean, and Syrian versions of biblical texts.
  • In 1584, Plantin was commissioned by the city council of Leiden to print the Dutch and French editions of the official report on the assassination of William the Silent, Cort verhael van de moort ghedaen aan den persoon van den Prince van Orangien (Short story on the assassination of the Prince of Orange).
illustratie: video

The Leiden group Street Fable put this poem to music

illustratie: lees dit gedicht in het frans

Le Bonheur de ce Monde

Avoir une maison commode, propre et belle,
Un jardin tapissé d'espaliers odorans,
Des fruits, d'excellent vin, peu de train, peu d'enfans,
Posséder seul sans bruit une femme fidèle ;

N'avoir dettes, amour, ni procès, ni querelle,
Ni de partage à faire avecque ses parens,
Se contenter de peu, n'espérer rien des grands,
Régler tous ses desseins sur un juste modèle ;

Vivre avecque franchise et sans ambition,
S'adonner sans scrupules à la dévotion,
Domter ses passions, les rendre obéissantes,

Conserver l'esprit libre et le jugement fort,
Dire son chapelet en cultivant ses entes,
C'est attendre chez soi bien doucement la mort.

illustratie: meer weten

Learn more

This entry is written by Het Taalmuseum in collaboration with Carolien Devilee. The translation into English is by Rianne Koene. The following publications were consulted: