To Theo van Gogh. London, between Tuesday, 13 and Sunday, 18 April 1875.
My dear Theo,
I’m sending you herewith a small drawing. I made it last Sunday, the morning a daughter (13 years old) of my landlady died. It’s a view of Streatham Common, a large, grass-covered area with oak trees and broom. It had rained in the night, and the ground was soggy here and there and the young spring grass fresh and green. As you see, it’s scribbled on the title page of the ‘Poesies d’Edmond Roche’. There are beautiful ones among them, serious and sad, including one that begins and ends
Sad and alone, I climbed the sad, bare dune,
Where the sea keens its ceaseless moaning plaint,
The dune where dies the wide unfurling wave,
Drab path that winds and winds upon itself again.
and another, ‘Calais’
How I love to see you once again, o my native town,
Dear sea nymph seated at the waters’ edge!
I love the soaring spire of your bell-tower,
Lovely in its boldness and its elegance,
Its fretted cupola, through which we see the sky.
You’ll probably be curious about what goes with the etching by Corot and so I’ve copied that out as well.
The pond to Corot
We watched the pond, its water leaden, drear,
Form crease upon crease slowly in the breeze,
And the mud, enfolding in a softened line
The prow and black sides of a boat aground;
The woods’ high crown, leaf by fallen leaf,
Lay strewn upon the ground; the sky was filled with mist;
We two, in whispers, almost furtively,
Were sadly saying, ‘Summer’s past:
These slopes have lost their accustomed grace;
No more green foliage, no more golden light
Trembling in the trembling water or touching tops with gold!’
This idyll may yet come before our eyes again,
If you would have it so: are you not the master
Who re-created it after its first creator’s hand?
Warm regards, and I wish you the best. Adieu