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Mijn oog o ween niet meer, maar houd uw tranen,
Mijn ziele, treur niet meer, maar bid, maar bid, mijn
[Mine eye, oh weep no more, but hold your tears,
My soul, mourn no more, but pray, but pray, my soul.]
Thanks for the letter I received this morning. There are
hours and days and periods in life when God hides His
countenance, as it were; but for those who love God those
times, those sad times, are not wholly devoid of God, but as if
they were full of prophecies for the future and full of voices
from the past, “so far the Lord has led you,”
“cherish the old faith again.”
If things you had not expected should happen to you,
strengthen in yourself the sorrowing for God, and the voice,
It was an autumn day when I stood on the steps before Mr.
Provily's school, watching the carriage in which Pa and Mother
were driving home. One could see the little yellow carriage far
down the road - wet with rain and with spare trees on either
side - running through the meadows.
The grey sky above it all was mirrored in the pools.
(Try to send me the page from Michelet.)
[Written in the margin] Do you ever go to Communion? They
that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
Between that moment and the present there lie years of
exile. - There is a phrase that accompanies us, and seems to
grow up with us - sorrowful yet always rejoicing. There is the
prayer for a mother for her children, a prayer which is very
powerful, for the prayer of the righteous has great power:
Father, I pray unto Thee not that thou shouldest take them
out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the
There is the faithful hand of the father which blessed us
when we left the parental home.
And then, boy, as I told you before, there is a strong
craving for the day when He will no longer remember the sins of
my youth. Who rejoices in grey hairs? As far as the east is
from the west, so far I shall remove your transgressions from
you [Ps. 103:12]. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they
shall be as white as snow.” Whoever doth not hate his own
life cannot be a disciple of Christ [Luke. 14:20]. Once Pa sent
Zucht tot heiliging
Wie zal voor immer en volkomen ons bevrijden
Van `t lichaam dezer daad gebogen onder `t juk…
[Translation of the whole poem]
CRAVING FOR SANCTITY
Who shall deliver me completely and forever
From the body of this deed; bowed down beneath the yoke,
How long shall I have to fight against myself
Before I can tear this heart away from the service of
I had promised my God that He should be called my God,
That I should follow Him with undivided mind;
I was tried - and my oath was forgotten;
I was tempted - and my foot wavered.
No, not with my own strength shall I learn to conquer -
Confess your weakness, O my soul, and self-deceit,
The Father shall fashion the child's heart;
The Master shall be the guiding spirit of the pupil.
Well then, father! Let Thy love make me capable;
My Master, take my hand, and show me Thy banner.
I stood alone - and fell; now we go together.
I broke down - Thou fightest for me and I am victorious.
Only now do I feel strong, now that I feel I am weak,
Powerless in myself, all-powerful in the Lord!
Let sin tempt, let angry passions churn,
Thou, God in me! strikest down all enemies.
I am sad, but it is a godly grief,
A cloud of night, but edged with the heavenly red of
I weep, O God! but with joy in my heart;
I bow my head, but, Father, onto thy lap.
Who rejoices in grey hairs? Who can look behind it, like
Felix Holt did behind the word failure? Who is there to
see when the first years of life, life of youth and
adolescence, life of worldly enjoyment and vanity will perforce
wither - and they shall, even as the blossom falls from the
tree - and vigorous new life shoots up, the life of love unto
Christ Who is importunate and of sorrowing that is unrepenting,
unto God; how then in our close dependence on God, and in the
unmistakable and keen sensation of it, we find more favour in
His eyes, which are too pure to see evil, and He can and will
entrust His Holy Spirit more safely to our weakness, His Holy
Spirit, Which grants life, and urges us to do good works; who
rejoices in grey hairs? Who is sorrowful yet always rejoicing,
chastised but not slain, to die but lo! we live - oh, who
rejoices in falling and rising again, long-suffering and meek?
- who rejoices in the green wood of the straight pines and
cedars, and ivy and holly and moss in winter? - Withered wood
does give more heat, a bright fire and light, when it is
kindled, than green wood. “There is no fear in love; but
perfect love casteth out fear…”
Vader onder al mijn noden
Vader onder heil en straf…
[Literal translation of the whole poem.]
Father, in all my troubles
Father, in bliss and punishment
Father, even in the realm of the dead,
Father, even in the silent tomb
Whenever I may behold change
Thou, O God, standest firm forever.
My dust rests also on Thy faithful security
Slumbers in Thy home.
Therefore years, speed freely on
With your gladness and your grief
Whatever disaster I may bewail
God, my God changeth not.
When we sit in mournful darkness
Still that Eternal Light will keep
All its brilliance and all its glory
Worthy of all praise and poetry.
I know to Whom I entrust myself;
Though day and night may alternate,
I know the rock on which I build:
He Who awaits my salvation will not fail me.
Once in the evening of my life,
Tired of cares and struggling, I shall offer up
Unto Thee for every day granted me here
A loftier and purer song of praise.
Oh my soul, why art thou bowed down
Why art thou troubled within me?
Regain thy old faith
In the joy in the praise of the Most High.
Many a time hath He changed
Thy burden into happiness.
Put thy trust in Him, raise thine eyes to Heaven
For I shall glorify my God forever.
And above all love one another with a fervent love, for love
shall cover a multitude of sins [sic. 1 Pet. 4:8].
Waar liefde woont gebiededt de Heer Zijn zegen
Daar woont Hij zelf
Daat wordt Zijn heil verkregen
En't leven tot in eeuwigheid.
[Where love dwells the Lord commands His blessing
There He lives Himself
There His Grace is won
And life eternal.]
Let us bear love one unto another that God may augment and
strengthen our love, and gather love around us, and if there
should be no human being that you can love enough, love the
town in which you dwell, as you do, too - don't I love Paris
and London, though I am a child of the pine woods and of the
beach at Ramsgate? And seek to please the poor and to find
favour in their eyes.
“Strengthen thine heart.” “Because ye are
sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your
hearts, crying: Abba, Father.”
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is
love.” And this is life eternal: knowing God and Christ
Whom He sent [John 17:3]. “There is no fear in
love.” “In my Father's house are many mansions; if
it were not so I would have told you.”
“And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put
confidence in man.” It is better to fall into the hands
of the Lord than into the hands of men.
Let Christ be the centre of your longing, Comforter of the
disquieted mind. “Strengthen thine heart” also in
this sense; eat thy bread in simplicity of heart; at
least do this, I cannot do otherwise, God help me, if there be
peril in doing it: “Father, into thy hands I commend my
spirit.” Eat your bread but live simply, and smoke your
pipe, which I do myself whenever I can manage to go out once in
a while. “And turn thy way unto the Lord, He will pave
[Written in the margin] Do not be afraid to sing a hymn in
the evening when you are out for a walk and nobody is about:
“As pants the hart for cooling streams, when heated in
the chase,” or, “Oh my soul, why art thou bowed
down,” or, “Centre of our craving,” or,
“I know to Whom I entrust myself.”
The years between twenty and thirty are full of perils of
all kinds, full of great perils, ay, perils of sin and death,
but also full of God's light and comfort; struggling, thou
shalt prevail, and when the dangers are past, thou shalt recall
them poignantly and say, It was a good time after all.
“Strengthen thy charity.” What, however, is this
Charity Paul speaks of? And what are those wonderful words thou
knowest also, 1 Cor. 13? This Charity is Life in Christ, this
Charity is our Mother; all the good things of the earth belong
to Her, for all is good if enjoyed with thankfulness, but She
extends much further than those good things of the earth. To
Her belongs the draught of water from a brook on a hike or from
a fountain in the hot streets of London or Paris, to Her belong
also “I shall make thy bed in sickness,” “as
one whom his mother comforteth, so I will comfort you,”
and to Her belongs: “Constancy unto death toward Christ,
who giveth us the strength to do all.”
“There is a friend that sticketh closer than a
“Strengthen thy hope,” for there is much that is
good in life; for the one who loves Christ the world is what it
is, and all things seem to fall to his share. Certainly it is
true that much joy lies behind us, and much that we formerly
anticipated joyfully, and if perchance much joy lies before us,
we have seen already: “the world passeth away, and the
lust thereof.” And if it be true:
I've found a joy in sorrow, a secret balm for pain
A beautiful tomorrow of sunshine after rain
I've found a branch of healing near every bitter spring
A whispered promise stealing (from every?) broken
thus it is true that there is no joy without unhappiness.
Sorrow is better than laughter, and it is better to go to the
house of mourning, than to the house of feasts…for by
the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better
[Eccles. 7:2-3]. Even in mirth the heart is sad.
For myself, I will strive after the Love of Christ and after
working for Him all my life; though it fail and though I fail,
there will always remain that standing from afar and longing
for the heights away from the misery here below. But I will
seek Faith and Love, and go on beseeching the Spirit of God
under all circumstances. For this is my vow unto the Lord, my
… [illegible], my rock. If I am forsaken, I am forsaken,
but He is faithful and loves with an eternal Love, and grants
that the longing of our hearts be ever green.
[Written in the margin] Regards to Roos, Haanebeek,
Tersteeg, Borchers, Carolien and Marie.
[Written at the top of the next page] Read in the prophecies
of Isaiah and Jeremiah: Is. 9, 11, 35, Is. 40, 42, 43, 44, 45:2
and the following verses 49,53, 55, 58, 61, 63, 65; Jer. 3, 17,
The Lord is thy keeper: He is thy shade upon thy right hand.
In Him is deliverance from death, in Him is everlasting life.
My boy, there will come days when we shall no longer believe
because we heard It said, but when we shall know
It and felt It and love It. Then we shall be
moved, when we hear the name of God pronounced, yea, even as we
are moved when we see our father again after having been away
from home for a long time. And we shall all be brethren and
sisters and children of the Shepherd, as if anew, and in many a
Let us go on in life as long as our legs will carry us, and
though the foot may get tired, and the tribulation great, and
though the ear may hum with the noise of the world, which it
has heard for so many years, and though the whole head be
weary, and the going hard, let us go on in life, because our
Father and our Mother say unto us, “Go on and don't look
back”; and if we may do good along the way, let us not
forbear; but still, God desires more our heart than our works.
Pa and Mother say, Go on, and they love us - did not Pa say, My
boy, you know very well I would give my last shirt for you. Let
us go on as long as our legs will carry us, and thou shalt find
that God giveth strength to the weary and fortifieth him that
is weak, that God supporteth us; for there is greater love in
the future, therefore we delight and have faith in the life
that is to come.
An imaginary handshake, it is late already, à Dieu.
Well, brother, this is the fruit of the pen and of the
Your loving brother, Vincent
[Written in the margin] If you can manage it, please send
Mother a carte de visite Nr. 669 l'enfant prodigue by Scheffer
for her birthday.
I am happily looking forward to Christmas; two years ago we
took a walk in the snow in the evening, do you remember? And
saw the moon rise over the Marienhof? I also quite clearly
remember the night, that same Christmastide, I drove from
Bois-le-Duc to Helvoirt in a little open cart, it was terribly
cold and the road was slippery; how beautiful Bois-le-Duc
looked, the market square and the streets covered with snow and
the dark houses with snow on the roofs. Brabant is ever
Brabant, and one's native country is ever one's native country,
and countries of exile are ever countries of exile. And viewed
from the distant road to Bois-le-Duc, how pleasant Helvoirt
looked that evening and the lights in the village and the
steeple amidst the snow-covered poplars. But it is love that
gives it all so much beauty and animation. And do you remember
that trip to St. Michiel's Gestel.
“The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with
singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be on their head:
and they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning
shall flee away.”
“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter
weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted
for her children, because they were not.”
“Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping,
and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded,
saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the
“Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble
knees.” “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than
your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
[Written at the top of the following page] There is no
better nor surer way to follow through life than Love, above
all for our Father: in His name we go on from one day to the
next. But we can also bear love unto others. How often the
memory of one already gone to my Father's house - where there
are many mansions - has warmed me and made my heart glow with
Love on my evening walks through the streets of London, and in
the cabbage fields outside the town. And as often as I walk in
the streets of London, the thought of Him and the Love of Him
rise up in me.
When Lies came home at Christmas we had a pleasant meeting.
She and Albertien came in Uncle Vincent's carriage from Breda.
Pa, Cor and I went along the road to meet them, and when we saw
the carriage in the distance I ran ahead of the other two. It
was twilight, and the carriage was dark. Through the window one
saw the road with the fields and a row of trees on either side.
At the end of the road the church was dark against the sky.
Behind the church lowered big dark evening clouds, but edged
with silver. It was such an unexpected joy to see the little
lass again - a much greater joy than I had anticipated.
Anna will be back in Welwyn by now, I suppose; when she
leaves Welwyn, she will realize how much she has loved it. You
know how in winter she used to be the first to get up and light
the fire - she has been a blessing in the house. Her little
room is so lovely - with the ivy about the window and the view
of the garden and the big chestnuts around which swarms of
swallows fly in summer - when the sun is setting behind the
trees. And the rooks nest there, too. The “Mater
Dolorosa” by Delaroche hung over her bed.
Do you happen to have kept that page from Michelet
beginning, “Je vois d'ici une dame”? If you have,
please copy it for me; I want it, but don't have the book any
Heeft de overhand op mij
O Mijn weerspannig overtreden…
[Translation of the whole poem]
Oh, if my waywardness
Prevail over me,
Be Thou the one to reconcile and purify me!
Most blessed is he whom Thou hast chosen,
Whom in the midst of the tumult of the earth
Thou bidst draw near and hear Thy holy voice,
Yea, dwell in Thy house.
Most blessed is he whose sins are forgiven,
Who is delivered from punishment forever,
Whose defiling iniquities
Are hidden from the holy eye of the Lord.
Most blessed is the man whom
God does not hold guilty in justice,
But who, with a devout and undissembling mind,
Nourishes no wicked deceit, only white righteousness.
How shall these things come to pass?
“Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the
“I will go before thee, and make the crooked places
straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in
sunder the bars of iron…”
“I am…the beginning and the end, the first and
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should
not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may
forget, yet will I not forget thee.”
“Hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not
with wine: …Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the
cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou
shalt no more drink it again.”
“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be
removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither
shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that
hath mercy on thee.”
“The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither
for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the
Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy
glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon
withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light,
and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.”
“As one whom his Mother comforteth, so I will comfort
you … saith the Lord. Wilt thou not from this time cry
unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of youth? … Thou
shalt call me, My Father; and shalt not turn away from
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and
I shall be saved.” Redeem me, and I shall be
For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee …All
thy lovers have forgotten thee … I shall restore health
unto thee, and take the plagues away from thee.
“The Lord hath appeared of old to me, saying, Yea, I
have loved thee with an everlasting love.” “As one
whom his Mother comforteth, so I will comfort you, saith the
Lord.” “There is a friend that sticketh closer than
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 1 September 1876 in Isleworth. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.