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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 Self-Knowledge

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 with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

     And it is well you should.
     The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
     And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
     But let there be no scales ot weigh your unknown treasure;
     And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
     For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

     Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”  
     Say not, "I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
     For the soul walks upon all paths.
     The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
     The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals. 

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 the weaver said, Speak to us of Clothes.
     And he answered:
     Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.
     And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.
     Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more
poem
And an old priest said, Speak to us of Religion.
     And he said:
     Have I spoken this day of aught else?
     Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,
     And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hand hew the stone or tend the
poem
And the priestess spoke again and said: Speak to us of Reason and Passion.
     And he answered, saying:
     Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite. 
     Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn