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I must send you another letter; as you see, I am writing
Yesterday morning I received a letter from home in which
Father wrote that Aerssen was dying and that he had been to see
him, as Aerssen had expressed the wish that Father should visit
him. At this news my heart was drawn so strongly towards
Zundert that I longed to go there also.
But more about this later. I have just read your last
letter, from which I see that your trip is over and you are
back in The Hague. Please write again soon, and let us stay
Today I received a postcard from Anna, saying she arrived
safely; may she do well. Has it struck you, too, that something
has come over her that makes you think of the woman who loved
Jesus, of whom the Bible speaks? And thinking of her, I am
reminded again and again of Béranger's words:
Dans les palais et sous le chaume,
Dit la Vierge, j'ai de mes mains
Préparé le miel et le baume
Pour les souffrances des humains.
[In the palaces and under the thatch,
The Virgin says, I have prepared
With my own hands the honey and balsam
For human sufferings.]
And how sweet she was with that family at Welwyn, sharing
their happiness and misfortune, and never withholding any help
or comfort that was within her; also in the days that child
fell ill and died. I have seen so clearly how they all loved
her. From the very beginning she exerted herself to the utmost,
rising early in winter to light the fire with her own hands,
even though the first days were not easy for her, and she wrote
she often thought, “Without Thou, O Eternal Being, Ah,
what would man be on this earth; Who is there in heaven but
Thou; Nought delights me any more on earth but Thou.”
1 And how she looked forward to Communion, and went
to it, and was fortified by it. And how Pa and Mother love her,
as, indeed, we all do; ay, let us stay close together.
Saturday night I took the last train from Dordrecht to
Oudenbosch, and walked from there to Zundert. It was so
beautiful on the heath; though it was dark, one could
distinguish the heath and the pine woods and moors extending
far and wide - it reminded me of the Bodmer print hanging in
Father's study. The sky was overcast, but the evening star was
shining through the clouds, and now and then more stars
appeared. It was very early when I arrived at the churchyard in
Zundert; everything was so quiet. I went over all the dear old
spots, and the little paths, and waited for the sunrise there.
You know the story of the Resurrection - everything reminded me
of it that morning in the quiet graveyard.
Having arrived at Aerssen's house, I heard from young
Aerssen and Mientje, as soon as they had got up, that their
father had died that night - oh! They were so grieved, and
their hearts were so full. Hein also came very early in the
morning. I was glad to be with them, and I shared their
feelings, for I too had loved the man.
The aunts send you their love, as well as Jan Doome, whom I
also visited. From there I walked with Hein to Rijsbergen and
spent about an hour in the house; we read the Bible together.
Woutje Prins 2 had also sat up with Aerssen three
nights, and had been with him to the last.
Then I walked with Hein Aerssen to Etten, and I am home now,
ready to start for Dordrecht early tomorrow morning.
Good-by, brother, it is mail time; a firm handshake and kind
regards to all, from
Your loving brother, Vincent
Quotation from Dutch poem.
Their old nurse at Zundert.
At this time, Vincent was 24 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 8 April 1877 in Etten. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 091.
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