poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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 Talking

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 half murdered.
     For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.
     
     There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
     The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.
     And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand. 
     And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.
     In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.
  
     When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.
     Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear or his ear;
     For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered
     When the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.  

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 Almitra spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.
     And he said:
     You would know the secret of death.
     But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
     The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
     If you would indeed behold
poem
Then said a teacher, Speak to us of Teaching.
     And he said:
     No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.
     The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his
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