Flemish poet and Catholic apologist; b. Antwerp, 1493; d. there, 1575. There is little biographical material available. She was a teacher and remained unmarried. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1528; the following year Eligius Eucharius of Ghent translated that work into Latin and published it at Antwerp. Two other published collections of her poems appeared in 1548 and in 1567. Many of her other poems were preserved in 16th-and 17th-century manuscripts, the two most important of which were published in 1886 and in 1902. Some historians believe she was the author of many popular tales and even of the miracle play Mariken van Nieumeghen (Mary of Nimmegen ), but this ascription is doubtful. Bijns' lyrics are cast as "Refereinen," a form roughly similar to the French ballade of the rhétoriquers; their verse technique resembles that of the Meistersinger genre in German literature.
Her poems, striking in imagery and stirring in rhythm, are concerned chiefly with religion, education, friendship, and love. Much of Bijns' religious poetry had a controversial temper: she began writing shortly after Luther's original attacks on the Catholic church, and her passionate defenses, while often partisan, were eloquent, and were convincing at least to the popular mind. Her noncontroversial verse, even when occasionally marred by overt moralizing, reflects both her deep love of Christ and Mary, and a moving filial attachment to the Church. Other lyrics reveal her trust in God, especially in the face of death, a theme she handled with delicacy and power. Her love poems, also somewhat moralistic, are to an extent in the medieval tradition of courtly love; they are alive with deep feeling but are less carefully and sensitively wrought than the best of her religious poems.
She was one of the first writers in Low Country literature to describe the beauty of nature, but she rejected the worldly spirit of the Renaissance. Notwithstanding her fervent interest in the religious events that announced the modern age, she might well be considered one of the last representatives of the Middle Ages.
Bibliography: a. bijns, Refereinen, ed. w. l. van helten (Rotterdam 1875); Nieuwe refereinen (Ghent 1886); "Onuitgeg-even gedichten van Anna Bijns," Leuvensche Bijdragen 4 (1902) 199–368. l. roose, Anna Bijns: Een rederijkster uit de Hervormingstijd (Vlaamse Academie voor Taal-en Letterkunde, 6th ser. Bekroonde Werken 93; Ghent 1963), with full bibliog.