During the seventeenth century Dutch officials in the East were instructed to keep journals to
record daily events. Many of these journals were published, stimulating interest in the East. A fine example is the comprehensive Oost-Indische voyagie of the Dutch ship’s doctor Wouter Schouten
(1639–1704), which was published in 1676 in Amsterdam. This readable book about Dutch East
Indian experiences was written after Schouten’s voyage while he was practising in Haarlem and
was supplemented by 36 (unpublished) poems about his experiences and the wonders he saw during
the voyage. The highlight of the broarder Dutch literature about the Dutch East Indies, however, is Multatuli’s novel Max Havelaar (1860). The tradition of travel writing was also pursued by the Afrikaans poet C. Louis Leipoldt (1880–1947) and the Dutch poet J. Slauerhoff (1898–1936)
during the first half of the twentieth century. This article discusses the origin and nature of the poems about the East by these two poets and highlights the similarities and differences between their works. It also takes a look at the nature of travel poetry as a genre and concludes that Leipoldt and Slauerhoff made a significant contribution towards the Afrikaans and Dutch-speaking world’s understanding of the (then) faraway East.