A winter evening

At sunset all the forest seems as though
In contemplation; clumps of russet oaks,
Small junipers, sparse holly bushes,
And not a leaf doth tremble in the light.

The only sound, a bird, belated toiler
In the distant stand of ancient chestnut trees;
Across the mighty, peaceful woods we hear
The yaffle, with his bill’s staccato hammering.

Strange bird, familiar to this man who passes by
In sunset’s pure, calm glimmering.
’Tis not an old man, feet dragging as he goes,
His back bent low, drawn on weary legs.

’Tis is a rude fellow from the forest comes,
Laden with dead wood. His stride is long and firm,
He’s seen the sun, like a great orange in the sky,
That yonder sinks into the grass and disappears.

Cheerfully he goes; pondering in his inmost heart
Some source of happiness – into the clear, cold sky
Rises a plume of smoke, a long, straight plume.
His old mask, rugged and weather-worn, lights up.

Night may have fallen by the time he gains
That fold of ground where the horizon ends,
But on his back he has a goodly beech-wood fire,
To brighten every corner of the house.

There, beneath a mossy roof, door and window closed
At bedtime, his children with delight
Will open wide their eyes, dazzled by the flames,
When off their small pink feet he takes the shoes.


Br. 1990: - | CL:
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: unknown, probably between 1874 and December 1876

1.Soirée d’hiver’, included in André Lemoyne, Poésies 1855-1870. Paris 1873, pp. 89-90. There are a few slight differences between Van Gogh’s copy and the published poem.