St Jerome’s love.1

Who is the maid my spirit seeks
Through cold reproof, and slanders blight –
Has she loves roses on her cheeks?
Is her’s an eye of calm delight?
No – wan and sunk with midnight prayer
Are the pale looks of her I love
And if by times a light be there
That light is kindled from above.

I choose not her mine hearts elect
’Mongst those that seek their Makers shrine
In gems and garlands proudly decked
As if themselves were things divine.
No, heaven but faintly warms the breast
That beats beneath a broidered veil.
And she, who comes in glittering dress
To mourn her frailty – yet is frail.

Not so the faded form I prize
And love because her bloom is gone
The glory of those sainted eyes
Is all the dress her brow puts on.
But ne’er was beauties bloom so bright,
So touching as that forms decay
Which as the altars wavering light
In holy lustre fades away.

 1r:2 [sketch A]


Br. 1990: - | CL:
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Anna van Gogh
Date: unknown, second half of 1881

1. The poem ‘Who is the maid? St. Jerome’s love’ is by Thomas Moore. See Moore 1910, pp. 255-256. Van Gogh attributes it to Harriet Beecher Stowe. He therefore knew it from her book We and our neighbours, or the records of an unfashionable street. A novel, in which the poem appears. See ed. London 1877, p. 86. There are several differences between Van Gogh’s copy and the printed version. The most striking are:
5 of calm delight < of this world’s light
9 That light < It’s beam
11 ’Mongst those that < From those who
16 dress < vest
21 dress < grace
22 bloom < dawn
24 wavering < trembling
Van Gogh copied the poem, again with more or less the same differences, twice in Saint-Rémy: at the end of letter 832 to Willemien van Gogh, and on a loose sheet belonging to the estate. Torn on purpose all around the text, the sheet contains part of a letter to Theo on the back (see RM18).