Kahlil Gibran, the famous Lebanese-American poet and painter, has touched the lives of millions.
Born in Lebanon in 1883, Gibran emigrated to the United States at the age of twelve, where he gained international renown as a poet and painter before his death in 1931.
His message and images have resonated among peoples of diverse cultures and brought them together in appreciation of his art.
Gibran’s major work, The Prophet, is currently the most widely read book in the world. In his life and work—which were inspired by his experiences as an immigrant in an adopted land—Gibran resolved cultural and human conflicts and developed in the process a unique consciousness, one that transcended the barriers of East and West.
His belief in the unity of being, his awareness of spiritual continuity, his call for universal fellowship and the unification of the human race all retain their potency today, as do the messages of all great poets.
From “The Prophet”
Then Almitra spoke, saying,
We would ask now of Death.
And he said:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day
cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
And he answered:
Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall you
find her unless she herself be your way and your
And how shall you speak of her except she be the
weaver of your speech?
The aggrieved and the injured say, ‘Beauty is kind
‘Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she
walks among us.’
And the passionate say, ‘Nay, beauty is a thing of
might and dread.
‘Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us
and the sky above us.’
The tired and the weary say, ‘Beauty is of soft
whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
‘Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that
quivers in fear of the shadow.’
But the restless say, ‘We have heard her shouting
among the mountains,
‘And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and
the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.’
At night the watchmen of the city say, ‘Beauty shall
rise with the dawn from the east.’
And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say,
‘We have seen her leaning over the earth from the
windows of the sunset.’
In winter say the snow-bound, ‘She shall come with
the spring leaping upon the hills.’
And in the summer heat the reapers say, ‘We have
seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we
saw a drift of snow in her hair.’
All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand
But rather a heart inflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you
But rather an image you see though you close your
eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a
wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of
angels for ever in flight.
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils
her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.
And a woman spoke, saying, “Tell us of Pain.”
And he said:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
Let there be space in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each others cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together;
For the pillars of the temple stand apart.
The God separated a spirit from Himself and fashioned it into
beauty. He showered upon her all the blessings of gracefulness and
kindness. He gave her the cup of happiness and said, “Drink not
from this cup unless you forget the past and the future, for
happiness is naught but the moment.” And He also gave her a cup
of sorrow and said, “Drink from this cup and you will understand
the meaning of the fleeting instants of the joy of life, for sorrow
And the God bestowed upon her a love that would desert he forever
upon her first sigh of earthly satisfaction, and a sweetness that
would vanish with her first awareness of flattery.
And He gave her wisdom from heaven to lead to the all-righteous
path, and placed in the depth of her heart and eye that sees
the unseen, and created in he an affection and goodness toward
all things. He dressed her with raiment of hopes spun by the
angels of heaven from the sinews of the rainbow. And He cloaked
her in the shadow of confusion, which is the dawn of life and
Then the God took consuming fire from the furnace of anger,
and searing wind from the desert of ignorance, and sharp-
cutting sands from the shore of selfishness, and coarse earth
from under the feet of ages, and combined them all and fashioned
Man. He gave to Man a blind power that rages and drives him
into a madness which extinguishes only before gratification
of desire, and placed life in him which is the spectre of
And the god laughed and cried. He felt an overwhelming love
and pity for Man, and sheltered him beneath His guidance.
Laughter and Tears
As the Sun withdrew his rays from the garden, and the moon
threw cushioned beams upon the flowers, I sat under the
trees pondering upon the phenomena of the atmosphere,
looking through the branches at the strewn stars which
glittered like chips of silver upon a blue carpet; and I
could hear from a distance the agitated murmur of the
rivulet singing its way briskly into the valley.
When the birds took shelter among the boughs, and the
flowers folded their petals, and tremendous silence
descended, I heard a rustle of feet though the grass.
I took heed and saw a yound couple approaching my arbor.
The say under a tree where I could see them without
After he looked about in every direction, I heard the
young man saying, “Sit by me, my beloved, and listen
to my heart; smile, for your happiness is a symbol
of our future; be merry, for the sparkling days
rejoice with us.
“My soul is warning me of the doubt in your heart,
for doubt in love is a sin.
“Soon you will be the owner of this vast land, lighted
by this beautiful moon; soon you will be the mistress of
my palace, and all the servants and maids will obey your
“Smile, my beloved, like the gold smiles from my father’s
“My heart refuses to deny you its secret. Twelve months
of comfort and travel await us; for a year we will spend
my father’s gold at the blue lakes of Switzerland, and
viewing the edifices of Italy and Egypt, and resting under
the Holy Cedars of Lebanon; you will meet the princesses
who will envy you for your jewels and clothes.
“All these things I will do for you; will you be satisfied?”
In a little while I saw them walking and stepping on flowers
as the rich step upon the hearts of the poor. As they
disappeared from my sight, I commenced to make comparison
between love and money, and to analyze their position in
Money! The source of insincere love; the spring of false
light and fortune; the well of poisoned water; the
desperation of old age!
I was still wandering in the vast desert of contemplation
when a forlorn and spectre-like couple passed by me and
sat on the grass; a young man and a young woman who had
left their farming shacks in the nearby fields for this cool
and solitary place.
After a few moments of complete silence, I heard the following
words uttered with sighs from weather-bitten lips, “Shed not
tears, my beloved; love that opens our eyes and enslaves our
hearts can give us the blessiong of patience. Be consoled in
our delay our delay, for we have taken an oath and entered
Love’s shrine; for our love will ever grow in adversity; for
it is in Love’s name that we are suffering the obstacles of
poverty and the sharpness of misery and the emptiness of
separation. I shall attack these hardships until I triumph
and place in your hands a strength that will help over all
things to complete the journey of life.
“Love – which is God – will consider our sighs and tears
as incense burned at His altar and He will reward us with
fortitude. Good-bye, my beloved; I must leave before the
heartening moon vanishes.”
A pure voice, combined of the consuming flame of love,
and the hopeless bitterness of longing and the resolved
sweetness of patience, said, “Good-bye, my beloved.”
They seperated, and the elegy to their union was smothered
by the wails of my crying heart.
I looked upon slumbering Nature, and with deep reflection
discovered the reality of a vast and infinite thing —
something no power could demand, influence acquire, nor
riches purchase. Nor could it be effaced by the tears of
time or deadened by sorrow; a thing which cannot be discovered
by the blue lakes of Switzerland or the beautiful edifaces
It is something that gathers strength with patience, grows
despite obstacles, warms in winter, flourishes in spring,
casts a breeze in summer, and bears fruit in autumn —
I found Love.
There in the middle of the field, by the side of a
crystalline stream, I saw a bird-cage whose rods and hinges
were fashioned by an expert’s hands. In one corner lay a dead
bird, and in another were two basins — one empty of water
and the other of seeds. I stood there reverently, as if the
lifeless bird and the murmur of the water were worthy of deep
silence and respect — something worth of examination and
meditation by the heard and conscience.
As I engrossed myself in view and thought, I found that the
poor creature had died of thirst beside a stream of water,
and of hunger in the midst of a rich field, cradle of life;
like a rich man locked inside his iron safe, perishing from
hunger amid heaps of gold.
Before my eyes I saw the cage turned suddenly into a human
skeleton, and the dead bird into a man’s heart which was
bleeding from a deep wound that looked like the lips of a
sorrowing woman. A voice came from that wound saying, “I
am the human heart, prisoner of substance and victim of
“In God’s field of Beauty, at the edge of the stream of
life, I was imprisoned in the cage of laws made by man.
“In the center of beautiful Creation I died neglected
because I was kept from enjoying the freedom of God’s
“Everything of beauty that awakens my love and desire
is a disgrace, according to man’s conceptions; everything
of goodness that I crace is but naught, according to
“I am the lost human heart, imprisoned in the foul
dungeon of man’s dictates, tied with chains of earthly
authority, dead and forgotten by laughing humanity whose
tongue is tied and whose eyes are empty of visible tears.”
All these words I heard, and I saw them emerging with
a stream of ever thinning blood from that wounded heart.
More was said, but my misted eyes and crying should prevented
further sight or hearing.