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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. 
 
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 Eating and Drinking

Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.
     And he said:
     Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
     But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship.
     And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.

     When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,
     “By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed.
     For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
     Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”
     And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,
     “Your seeds shall live in my body,
     And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
     And your fragrance shall be my breath,
     And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”

     And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyards for the winepress, say in your heart,
     “I too am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
     And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”
     And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
     And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.

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
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
poem
Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,
And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory.
 
Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,
Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot
poem
And an astronomer said, Master, what of Time?
     And he answered:
     You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
     You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.
     Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and