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About this poet

Kahlil Gibran was born January 6, 1883, in Bsharri, Lebanon, which at the time was part of Syria and part of the Ottoman Empire. He was the youngest son of Khalil Sa’d Jubran, a tax collector eventually imprisoned for embezzlement, and Kamila Jubran, whose father was a clergyman in the Maronite Christian Church. 
 
In 1885 Gibran emigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States, where they settled in the large Syrian and Lebanese community in Boston, Massachusetts. It was there that Gibran learned English and enrolled in art classes. His mother supported the family as a seamstress and by peddling linens. 
 
At the age of 15, Gibran was sent by his mother to Beirut, Lebanon, to attend a Maronite school. He returned to Boston in 1902. In that year and the one that followed, Gibran’s sister Sultana, half-brother Bhutros, and mother died of tuberculosis and cancer, respectively. His remaining living sister Marianna supported herself and Gibran as a dressmaker. 
 
In 1904 Gibran began publishing articles in an Arabic-language newspaper and also had his first public exhibit of his drawings, which were championed by the Boston photographer Fred Holland Day. Gibran modeled for Day, who was known for his photographs of boys and young men. It was through Day that Gibran’s artwork attracted the attention of a woman nine years his senior named Mary Haskell, who ran an all-girls school. Haskell became Gibran’s lifelong patron, paying for him to study art at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1908. There Gibran met the sculptor August Rodin, who reportedly once called him “the William Blake of the twentieth century.” Gibran's hundreds of drawings and paintings remain highly regarded. 
 
Haskell also enabled Gibran’s move to New York City in 1911, where he settled in a one-room apartment in bohemian Greenwich Village. At a lunch in the Village, Gibran met Alfred Knopf, who would became his publisher. In 1918, Gibran’s book of poems and parables The Madman was published. In 1923 Knopf published what would become Gibran’s most famous work, The Prophet. Though not met with critical praise or early success—the book was never reviewed by the New York Times, for example, and sold only 1,200 copies in its first year—the book became a phenomenon. The Prophet has now sold more than ten million copies, making Gibran one of the best-selling poets in the world. 
 
The Biblically inspired The Prophet was especially popular in the 1960s. About this, the translator and Middle East historian Juan Cole said, “Many people turned away from the establishment of the Church to Gibran. He offered a dogma-free universal spiritualism as opposed to orthodox religion, and his vision of the spiritual was not moralistic. In fact, he urged people to be non-judgmental."
 
Gibran was active in a New York-based Arab-American literary group called the Pen League, whose members promoted writing in Arabic and English. Throughout his life he would publish nine books in Arabic and eight in English, which ruminate on love, longing, and death, and explore religious themes. 
 
He died of cirrhosis of the liver on April 10, 1931, in New York City. 
 
A Selected Bibliography
 
Poetry
 
The Madman (1918) 
Twenty Drawings (1919)
The Forerunner (1920)
The Prophet (1923)
Sand and Foam (1926)
Kingdom of the Imagination (1927)
Jesus, The Son of Man (1928)
The Earth Gods (1931)

On Crime and Punishment

Then one of the judges of the city stood forth and said, Speak to us of Crime and Punishment.
     And he answered, saying:
     It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,
     That you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.
     And for that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.
     
     Like the ocean is your god-self;
     It remains for ever undefiled.
     And like the ether it lifts but the winged.
     Even like the sun is your god-self;
     It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.
     But your god-self dwells not alone in your being.
     Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
     But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.
     And of the man in you would I now speak.
     For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist, that knows crime and the punishment of crime.

     Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
     But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which his in each one of you,
     So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
     And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
     So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
     Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
     You are the way and the wayfarers.
     And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
     Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.

     And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts:
     The murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder,
     And the robbed is not blameless in being robbed.
     The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,
     And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.
     Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured,
     And still more often the condemned is the burden bearer for the guiltless and unblamed.
     You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;
     For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together. 
     And when the black thread breaks the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

    If any of you would bring to judgement the unfaithful wife,
     Let him also weigh the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with measurements.
     And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the offended.
     And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;
     And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth.
     And you judges who would be just,
     What judgement pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is the thief in spirit?
     What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?
     And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,
     Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?

     And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?
     Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve?
     Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.
     Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.
     And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?
     Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,
     And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, was born January 6, 1883, in Bsharri, Lebanon.

by this poet

poem
And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
     And he answered, saying:
     Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
     But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
     You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
     You would touch
poem
Then a mason came forth and said, Speak to us of Houses.
     And he answered and said:
     Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls.
     For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.
     Your
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Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.
     And in the twelfth year, on the seventh day of Ielool, the month of reaping, he climbed the hill without the