Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) was born to a Maronite Catholic family on January 6, 1883 in Bsharri, Lebanon, a scenic town nestled in the mountains near the Cedars of Lebanon. (On the other side of the Cedars in the Bsharri district is the Maronite Catholic town of Hasroun, the home of my maternal ancestors). Gibran moved to Boston with his mother and family in 1895, but returned to Lebanon and attended the Maronite Collège de la Sagesse in Beirut, where he graduated from high school at age 18. While in Lebanon, he began his early writings in Arabic. Two of his early Arabic works were the romantic novel Broken Wings, published in 1912, and the poetic collection A Tear and A Smile in 1914. He traveled back and forth to the United States at different stages of his artistic career, and eventually spent the last twenty years of his life in the USA. Following his death on April 10, 1931, his body was buried in his hometown of Bsharri, where a museum preserves his writings, drawings, and paintings.
His most famous book of poetry is The Prophet, published by AA Knopf of New York in 1923. His other primary English works include The Forerunner (1920), Sand and Foam (1926), Jesus The Son of Man (1928), and The Wanderer (1932). The Prophet has sold over ten million copies through the years, has been reprinted over 100 times, and has been translated into over 100 languages. Kahlil Gibran has captured the human spirit in this exceptional work. This selection from The Prophet is on Love.
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 you 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 fear 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 fulfill 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 to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.