I shall not believe you if in your next letter you tell me there’s nothing wrong with you. It is perhaps a more serious change, and I should not be surprised if you were a trifle low during the time it will take you to recover. In the fullness of artistic life there is, and remains, and will always come back at times, that homesick longing for the truly ideal life that can never come true.
And sometimes you lack all desire to throw yourself heart and soul into art, and to get well for that. You know you are a cab horse and that it’s the same old cab you’ll be hitched up to again: that you’d rather live in a meadow with the sun, a river and other horses for company, likewise free, and the act of procreation. And perhaps, to get to the bottom of it, the disease of the heart is caused by this; it would not surprise me. One does not rebel against things, nor is one resigned to them; one’s ill because of them, and one does not get better, and it’s hard to be precise about the cure.
“In the fullness of artistic life there is, and remains, and will always come back at times, that homesick longing for the truly ideal life that can never come true.”
I do not know who it was who called this condition-being struck by death and immortality. The cab you drag along must be of some use to people you do not know. And so, if we believe in the new art and in the artists of the future, our faith does not cheat us. When good old Corot said a few days before his death-“Last night in a dream I saw landscapes with skies all pink,” well, haven’t they come, those skies all pink, and yellow and green into the bargain, in the impressionist landscapes? All of which means that there are things one feels coming, and they are coming in very truth.
And as for us who are not, I am inclined to believe, nearly so close to death we nevertheless feel that this thing is greater than we are, and that its life is of longer duration than ours.
We do not feel we are dying, but we do feel the truth that we are of small account, and that we are paying a hard price to be a link in the chain of artists in health, in youth, in liberty, none of which we enjoy, any more than the cab horse that hauls a coachful of people out to enjoy the spring.
So what I wish for you, as for myself, is to succeed in getting back your health, because you must have that. That “Espérance” by Puvis de Chavannes is so true. There is an art of the future, and it is going to be so lovely and so young that even if we give up our youth for it, we must gain in serenity by it. Perhap it is very silly to write all this, but I feel it so strongly; it seems to me that, like me, you have been suffering to see your youth pass away like a puff of smoke but if it grows again, and comes to life in what you make, nothing has been lost and the power to work is another youth. Take some pains then to get well, for we shall need your health.