Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”
By Zena Sultana Babao
“OF LOVE: To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”- Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet is Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece, his most celebrated statement about the truth of human experience. Infused with a timeless wisdom about life and written in words of haunting and breathtaking beauty, The Prophet expresses the deepest desires of the heart and soul.
Vibrant with feeling, it is very much like the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes. Gibran adopted the tone and cadence of Ecclesiastes, fusing his personalized Christian philosophy with a spirit and oriental wisdom derived from the richly mixed influences of his native Lebanon. As a young man, he immigrated with his family to the United States, where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic.
Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American, is the third best-selling poet of all time next to Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu. In Lebanon where he was born in 1883, Gibran is a literary hero.
The Prophet has captured and mesmerized a generation of readers and has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide. John F. Kennedy, Indira Gandhi, and the Beatles were among those who have been influenced by its words. Published in 1923, The Prophet has never been out of print. This perennial classic has been translated into more than 50 languages and is a staple on the international best seller lists.
The verses in this book of poems have a way of speaking to people at different stages in their lives. It has this magical quality, and the more you read it the more you come to understand the words. But it is not filled with dogma, and whatever their Faith is, they love it. Because of its beautifully cadenced poetical language it has brought joy and consolation to countless people on occasions of birth, marriage, death, and all of life’s other milestones.
The Prophet is made up of 26 prose poems, delivered as sermons by a wise man called Almustafa. After 12 years of exile, Almustafa was about to set sail from the fictional island of Orphalese to his homeland when the people of the Orphalese asked him to share his wisdom about life before he departs. He did! And here are some of the beautiful and profound wisdom he shared:
“When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.”
“But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”
“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces on your togetherness,
And let the wings 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 other’s cup but drink not from the same 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,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
There are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition
And there are those who have little to give and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.”
“You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”
Of Joy and Sorrow:
“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the self-same well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
“It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky.”