Isleworth, 3 October 1876.

Sometimes hearts that are drooping
Grow full to the o’erflowing
And they that behold it
Do wonder and know not
That God at their fountains
Far off has been raining.1

Dear Theo,
I heard from home that you were ill.2 How much I’d like to be with you, my boy. Yesterday evening I walked over to Richmond and I thought about you the whole way, it was a beautiful, grey evening, you know that I go there every Monday evening to the Methodist church,3 yesterday evening I even said a few words on ‘Nothing pleaseth me but in Jesus Christ, and in Him all things please me’.4
How I’d like to be with you, though, oh why are we all so far apart? But what shall we do about it?
I’m sending herewith a letter from the aunts at Zundert. You know that Aunt Bet hurt herself so badly.5 I wrote and told them that, if possible, you and I would walk to Zundert sometime at Christmas.
Herewith I’m copying out a few psalms, you might like to read them at this time. Write a few words soon if you can.
A week ago on Saturday I made a long journey to London, and there I heard about a situation that might be of future interest. The clergymen in such seaside places as Liverpool and Hull, for example, often have need of assistants who speak various languages to work among the seamen and foreigners, and also to visit the sick. In addition, such a situation would be salaried.
I left here early that morning, 4 o’clock, that night it was beautiful in the park here,6 with the dark avenues of elm trees and the wet road going through them and the grey rainy sky above it all, and there was a thunderstorm in the distance. When daylight came I was in Hyde Park, where the leaves were already falling from the trees and the Virginia creeper was so magnificently red against the houses, and it was foggy. At 7 o’clock I was in Kennington, and rested there  1r:2 awhile in the church I had attended many a Sunday evening.7 In London I visited one or two people and also went to the gallery of Messrs Goupil & Cie, and there I saw the drawings that Van Iterson had brought, and it was a pleasure to see the Dutch cities and meadows again. That painting by Artz, that mill on the canal,8 I find really very beautiful. You also have a good life ahead of you, Theo, remain steadfast, and much light will come your way. Is Van Iterson back yet? I was very glad indeed to see him again, he’s bringing you ‘De wijde wijde wereld’,9 read it one of these days, the first chapters in particular are so beautiful and so truly straightforward.10 And read Longfellow sometime, e.g.:

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist

A feeling of sadness and longing
That is not akin to pain
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain

Come read to me some poem
Some simple and heartfelt lay
That shall soothe this restless feeling
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters
Not from the bards sublime
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of time

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart
As showers from the clouds of summer
Or tears from the eyelids start.

Who through long days of labour
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.11

Why art thou cast down, my soul,
Disquieted in me, oh why?
Foster again the faith of old,
Rejoice in praising Him most high.
Oft hath he taken your distress
And turned it into happiness.
Hope in Him, eyes heavenward raised,
For to my God I still give praise.12

If Van Iterson gave you that English hymnal, read No. 14.13
And now, old boy, a handshake in thought to you and one to Uncle Jan, adieu, old boy, remain steadfast and get well soon, and write soon about how you’re doing and at the same time send back the aunts’ letter, poor Aunt Bet, what old friends we are. Oh that Zundert, the thought of it’s almost too much at times. Adieu, old boy, may God make us brothers more and more and join us intimately to one another, and may the Love for Him make that bond ever stronger.14 Give my very warm regards to Uncle Jan, I heard from Pa that Willem and Johan15 are doing very well indeed. Give my regards, too, to everyone at the Rooses’, from

Your most loving brother,

Paris will also be beautiful now in the autumn, last year Gladwell and I went every Sunday to as many friends and churches as we could, we left in the morning and came home late. Notre-Dame is so absolutely beautiful in the autumn evenings among the chestnut trees. There’s something in Paris, though, that’s more beautiful than the autumn and the churches, and that is the poor people there. I sometimes think of many a person there.  1v:3

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His wings, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because Thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, Thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give his angels charge to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

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 thine eyes from tears, and thy voice from weeping, for thy work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.16 But this shall be the covenant that I will make, saith the Lord, I will write my law in their inward parts, and will be their God, and they shall be My sons and daughters. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.17

I know in Whom my faith is founded,
Though day and night change constantly,
I know the rock on which I’m grounded,
My Saviour waits, unfailingly.
When once life’s evening overcomes me,
Worn down by ills and strife always,
For every day Thou hast allowed me,
I’ll bring Thee higher, purer praise.18

Father in my great affliction,
Father, who punishes and saves,
Father, e’en in death’s own kingdom,
Father, too, in the silent grave.
Where’er I see inconstancy,
God, Thou takest a firm stand.
My dust, too, rests in Thy loyalty
And slumbers in Thy fatherly hand.19
Though catastrophes come hither,
Refuge I shall find in thee.
Thou art in Thy Son my Father,
Constant shalt Thou ever be.20

The light of stars.21

The night is come but not too soon;
And sinking silently,
All silently the little moon
Drops down beneath the sky.

There is no light in heaven and earth
But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
To the red planet Mars.

Is it the tender star of love?
The star of love and dreams?
Oh no, from that blue tent above,
A hero’s armour gleams

And earnest thoughts within me rise,
When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
The shield of that red star

O star of strength, I see thee stand
And smile upon my pain
Thou beckonest with thy mailed hand
And I am strong again

Within my breast there is no light,
But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
To the red planet Mars.

The star of the unconquered will,
He rises in my breast
Serene and resolute and still,
And calm and selfpossessed.

And thou, too, whosoe’er thou art
That readest this brief psalm
As one by one thy hopes depart
Be resolute and calm.

O fear not in a world like this
And thou shalt know ’ere long
Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong.

The panting hart, the hunt escapèd,
Cries no harder for the pleasure
Of fresh flowing streams of water
Than my soul doth long for God.
Yea, my soul thirsts for the Lord,
God of life, oh when shall I
Approach Thy sight and drawing nigh,
Give Thee praise in Thine own house.22

Do read Isaiah 53.


Br. 1990: 091 | CL: 75
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Isleworth, Tuesday, 3 October 1876

1. Taken, with several changes, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘The saga of king Olaf’ in Tales of a Wayside inn. See Longfellow 1886-1891, vol. 4, p. 108.

‘So hearts that are fainting
Grow full to o’erflowing
And they that behold it
Marvel, and know not
That God at their fountains
Far off has been raining!’

This poem is quoted again, with slight differences, in letters 96 and 322. Van Gogh also wrote this passage in the visitor’s book kept by Annie Slade-Jones; see Pabst 1988, p. 63.
2. Theo was suffering from an unspecified illness, the symptoms of which were long periods of debilitation and fever.
3. Although Vincent assumed that Theo knew about his weekly visits to the church at Richmond, no earlier mention of it has been found in the surviving correspondence, which could mean that a letter has been lost. The prayer meetings took place at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Richmond. See Bailey 1990, p. 95.
4. Cf. Hymn 62:2, ‘Och! mogt, all’ mijn levensdagen, / Wat Hem behaagt ook mij behagen’ (Oh, may all my livelong days, / What pleaseth Him please me always).
5. Elisabeth and Louisa van der Burg; the former had fallen and injured herself: ‘From Aunt Louise of Zundert a letter saying that Aunt Beth fell over a piece of wood in the garden and injured her arm very badly indeed, so badly that she cannot manage by herself. Poor, good soul. We feel so sorry for her’ (FR b2770, Mr van Gogh to Theo, 8 September 1876).
6. Syon Park in Isleworth.
7. The earlier visits to which Van Gogh refers will have taken place when he was living at Ivy Cottage, 395 Kennington Road (Lambeth), i.e. from August to October 1874 and from December 1874 to May 1875. Cf. letter 84, n. 3. The nearest church, St Mark’s, at the corner of Kennington Road and Clapham Road, was ‘one of the four Commissioners’ churches in Lambeth known as the Waterloo Churches’. The other churches in the neighbourhood were St Mary’s (Lambeth), St Paul’s (Clapham), Holy Trinity (Clapham) and St Matthew’s (Brixton). See Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, London 2. South. The buildings of England. Middlesex 1984, pp. 332-342.
8. This painting by David Adolph Constant Artz is unknown.
10. The first chapters of The wide, wide world tell of the love of the girl Ellen for her sick mother. Ellen is taken away from her parents.
11. Taken from H.W. Longfellow, ‘The day is done’, from the book The belfry of Bruges and other poems. See Longfellow 1886-1891, vol. 1, pp. 221-223. Van Gogh omitted the first, sixth, tenth and eleventh stanzas.
12. The first six lines are based on Rhy. ps. 42:3; the last two lines on Rhy. ps. 42:7. The first four lines of verse 42:3 and 42:7 are identical.
13. Vincent had previously sent Theo two other hymnals; this probably refers to yet another (see letter 91).
14. A prayer written and often recited in the family circle by Mr van Gogh; see letter 113.
15. Vincent Wilhelm van Gogh and Johannes van Gogh, sons of Uncle Jan van Gogh. Uncle Jan visited Theo regularly during his illness and kept Mr and Mrs van Gogh abreast of their son’s condition (FR b2777 and b2778).
17. Cf. Jer. 31:33-34. In l. 191 Van Gogh wrote ‘zonen en dochteren’ (my sons and daughters) instead of ‘een volk’ (my people).
18. Hymn 180:5. Cf. Pabst 1988, p. 62.
19. Hymn 160:5. Cf. Pabst 1988, p. 62.
21. Taken from H.W. Longfellow, ‘The light of stars’, from the book Voices of the night. See Longfellow 1886-1891, vol. 1, pp. 23-25.
22. Rhy. ps. 42:1. Cf. Pabst 1988, p. 62.