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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 Love

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
     And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
     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.
     Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
     So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
     Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself
     He threshes you to make your naked.
     He sifts you to free you from your husks.
     He grinds you to whiteness.
     He kneads you until you are pliant;
     And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

     All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

     But if in your heart you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
     Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
     Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
     Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
     Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
     For love is sufficient unto love.

     When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
     And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

     Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
     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;
     To return home at eventide with gratitude;
     And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

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 woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
     And he answered:
     Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
     And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
     And how else can it be?
     The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can
2
poem
And then a scholar said, Speak of Talking.
     And he answered, saying:
     You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts;
     And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.
     And in much of your talking, thinking is
poem
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