maandag 2 mei 2016

Of what’s going on within

"..Because of that, you’re not without melancholy,
and you feel emptiness where there could be friendship and high and serious affections,
and you feel a terrible discouragement gnawing at your psychic energy itself,
and fate seems able to put a barrier against the instincts for affection,
or a tide of revulsion that overcomes you.
And then you say, How long, O Lord!

Well, then, what can I say; does what goes on inside show on the outside?
Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it,
and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney and then go on their way.

So now what are we to do, keep this fire alive inside, have salt in ourselves, wait patiently,
but with how much impatience, await the hour,
I say, when whoever wants to, will come and sit down there, will stay there, for all I know?
May whoever believes in God await the hour, which will come sooner or later.

In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for;
he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it;
what it is he can’t clearly remember, and he has vague ideas and says to himself,
‘the others are building their nests and making their little ones and raising the brood’,
and he bangs his head against the bars of his cage.

And then the cage stays there and the bird is mad with suffering.
‘Look, there’s an idler’, says another passing bird — that fellow’s a sort of man of leisure.
And yet the prisoner lives and doesn’t die; nothing of what’s going on within shows outside,
he’s in good health, he’s rather cheerful in the sunshine.

But then comes the season of migration. A bout of melancholy —
but, say the children who look after him,
he’s got everything that he needs in his cage, after all —
but he looks at the sky outside, heavy with storm clouds,
and within himself feels a rebellion against fate.

I’m in a cage, I’m in a cage, and so I lack for nothing, you fools!
Me, I have everything I need!
Ah, for pity’s sake, freedom, to be a bird like other birds!"

~Vincent van Gogh,
excerpts from letter 133, to Theo van Gogh, Cuesmes, juni 1880

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