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RM12 Probably Etten, second half of 1881. Possibly sent to Anna van Gogh. Copy of the poem ‘St Jerome’s love’ by Thomas Moore.

metadata
No. RM12 (Brieven 1990 -, Complete Letters )
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Anna van Gogh
Date: unknown, second half of 1881

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b1455 V/1978

Date
The dating of this text cannot be determined with any certainty. The poem was copied from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s We and our neighbours, which had been published in 1875 – on 19 November 1881 Vincent, writing from Etten, advised Theo to read this book (letter 187). The little drawing of a landscape with gardens and houses, Fields and houses (F - / JH -) (5.0 x 9.2 cm), which also appears on the sheet, possibly dates from Van Gogh’s period in The Hague, 1882-1883. See Verzamelde brieven 1952-1954, vol. 1, p. 294; Pabst 1988, p. 95; and cat. Amsterdam 1996, pp. 242-243.
The sheet went by descent to the heirs of Van Gogh’s sister Anna, and was bought at auction by the engineer V.W. van Gogh on 2 May 1973 (Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, no. 66a); on 11 May 1978 it became the property of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation (Van Gogh Museum, Documentation). In any case, Anna wrote a letter to Etten in August 1881 (see letter 171). If she received this sheet in a letter, it could date, judging by the above, from the last part of 1881.

Sketch

  1. Head of a woman (F - / JH -), letter sketch

original text
 1r:1
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.–

Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 1r:2 [sketch A]
translation
 1r:1
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.

Harriet Beecher Stowe.
 1r:2 [sketch A]
notes
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).