Vincent van Gogh - Head of an Old Peasant Woman with White Cap 1884

Head of an Old Peasant Woman with White Cap 1884
Head of an Old Peasant Woman with White Cap
Oil on canvas on cardboard 33.0 x 26.0 cm. Nuenen: December, 1884
Private collection

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Anna van Gogh-Carbentus and Theo van Gogh. Isleworth, Friday, 13 October 1876.
Dearest Mother and Theo,
The boys will be going home tomorrow and then I’ll get my money. I asked Mr Jones to let me go and see you in these three days, my heart is so much with you. It now depends on you two, if you say, ‘you may come’, then Mr Jones will let me go. Besides wanting so much to sit at Theo’s bedside, I should also like so very much to talk to my Mother, and if possible to go to Etten once more to see and speak to my Father again. It would be but a short visit, I could stay with you one or two days.
Last Monday I was in Richmond again and took as my text ‘He hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor’. But he who wants to preach the gospel must first have it in his own heart, oh, that I might find it, for it is only the words spoken in singleness and from the abundance of the heart that can bear fruit.
One of these days, perhaps, I’ll go to London or Lewisham again.
I just gave Mr Jones’s girls a German lesson, and after the lesson I told them Andersen’s story The snow queen. If you can, write and tell me by return of post if I may come. I was glad to have Ma’s last letter.
I hope to visit Mr Stokes’s school one of these days. And then I hope to buy a new pair of shoes to prepare myself. The view from the window in your room is no doubt beautiful now, I know it from days past, you know.
We’re having a lot of rain here; it’s probably the same where you are.
I’ll have two or three weeks around Christmas to go to Holland, should Anna be able to come as well we could perhaps travel together. And now we’re gradually heading towards winter again, make sure you’re completely better when it arrives. It is indeed wonderful that Christmas falls in the winter. Oh how I’m looking forward to it, old boy, to make my rounds here and there at Turnham Green when it’s cold. When I think of you like this, as of ‘one whom his Mother comforteth and who is worthy of being comforted by his Mother’, it is with envy. Do get well soon, in any case.
Yesterday I asked Mr Jones to let me go, but he didn’t want to give his consent and said at last, write to your Mother, if she thinks it’s all right then so do I.
It is indeed a beautiful poem, that one by De Génestet:

On the lofty heights of suffering,
Steep the path to the Holy Land,
Steep the path one upward strives,
Steep the path to better lives.
On these lofty heights of suffering,
Led by God’s own loving hand.
From their peaks – it did seem nearer
To the starry, holy sphere,
And the dwelling of the Father –
Down upon the world I peered.
And yet I thought of that one morning,
Of a morning long ago,
When I, laughing without caring,
Glimpsed, O Lord, Thy world below.

And now I’ll copy out something for my brother:
I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our Lord is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, all men are liars. What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord. O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; a son of Thine handmaid: Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house.
I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
‘For he knoweth not that which shall be.’ May our shortsightedness ask to know no more than the Omniscient wanted to make known to us, and may our dependence slowly yield to the Almighty. That is the lesson for the day.

When I was a lad

When I was a lad, my life carefree as ever,
I girt myself up, did whatever I chose,
Free to go wand’ring, to seek, to endeavour,
Free in my travels, my dreams, my repose.

Even for me, though, the hour was nearing
Of calling, of mercy, of seriousness,
When in my bosom the voice I’d been hearing
Enquired ‘Do you love me?’ – my soul answered ‘Yes’.

Since that hour of waking my dreams are no longer,
Another now leads me, at times ’gainst my will,
Teaches my hands to reach eagerly further,
To follow and carry, oh, happy and still.

Yet now that life’s governed by the Supreme Being,
Despite pain and fetters, my soul torn apart –
I find what in life I’d once vainly been seeking:
More rest and more peace for my uneasy heart.

And now a handshake to you both and to Mr and Mrs Roos and to Willem, and to anyone else you might see whom I know. And let me know soon how you are and believe me

Your most loving brother,