To Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, Wednesday, 28 February 1877.
My dear Theo,
Write again soon if you can find a moment, remain steadfast, be of good heart, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wrote something for us last night which I enclose herewith, read it sometime.
Last night I left the office at 1 o’clock and walked around the Grote Kerk again and then along the canals and past that old gate to the Nieuwe Kerk and then home. It had snowed and everything was so still, the only thing one saw was a little light here and there in one or two upstairs rooms and, in the snow, the black figure of the rattle-man. It was high tide, and the canals and boats looked dark against the snow. It can be so beautiful there by those churches. The sky was grey and foggy, and the moon shone faintly through it.
Thought of you while I was walking, and upon arriving home I wrote what I’m sending you. It’s perhaps a time when one needs ‘the sound of a psalm of the past and a lamentation from the Cross’.
Behold, I thought in the dead of night
To hear His voice, so tender, so soft.
You have of course a De Génestet. Do read it much and often.
Pa sent me this once when I was in Paris:
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.
There is no Priest who can explain
Him whom no one seeks in vain.
Although into Elijah I cannot transform
The Lord soared past me after the storm.
Writing to you in haste between tasks, adieu, a hearty handshake in thought from
Your most loving brother