van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
London, April 1875
Relevant paintings:

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

Dear Theo,

As you see, it is sketched on the title page of Poems by Edmond Roche. There are some very fine ones among them, grave and sad; one begins and ends thus:

J'ai gravi triste et seul la dune triste et nue,
Où la mer fait gémir sa plainte continue,
La dune où vient mourir la vague aux larges plis,
Monotone sentier aux tortueux replis.

[I have, sad and alone, climbed the sad and barren dune
Where the sea moans its constant lament
The dune where the waves die in large folds
Monotonous path of torturous folds.]

And another, “Calais”:

Que j'aime à te revoir, o ma ville natale,
Chère nymphe marine assise aux bords des eaux,
J'aime de ton beffroi la flèche qui s'élance,
Belle de hardiesse et belle d'élégance,
Et sa coupole à jour, qui laisse voir les cieux.

[How I love to see you again, my native town
Dear sea nymph sitting on the seashore
I love the shaft darting from your belfry
Beautiful in its valour and beautiful in its elegance
Its lacework cupola, through which one sees the sky.]

You will probably be curious to know the one that describes the etching by Corot, and therefore I am copying it too:

L'étang à Corot

Nous regardions l'étang d'une eau morne et plombée
Lentement sous la brise assembler pli sur pli…
…Si vous le voulez bien; n'êtes vous pas le maître
Qui l'avez recréé après le créateur?

[We looked at the pond with its sombre, leaden water
As it assembled in the breeze fold after fold…
…if you desire it, are you not the master
Who created it after the Creator?]

Ville d'Avray

Kindest regards and good luck to you. À Dieu.


[Sketch Ville d'Avray after Corot drawn at foot of page.]

At this time, Vincent was 22 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written April 1875 in London. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 025.

This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.
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