Revisiting Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
by Renee Kimball
“Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.
And in the twelfth year, on the seventh day of Ielool, the month of reaping, he climbed the hill without the city walls and looked seaward; and he beheld his ship coming with the mist. . . . . . “And he said to himself: Shall the day of parting be the day of gathering? And shall it be said that my eve was in truth my dawn? . . .
– The Prophet
Gibran’s formal education was interrupted fleeing Lebanon, again through relocation to Boston. The small family faced obstacles of language and culture, yet, despite this, the mother opened a small store that allowed some income. During Kahlil’s late teens, a sister and both brothers died from tuberculosis; shortly after, Gibran’s mother died from cancer. As the remaining guardian of his youngest sister, Gibran continued working his mother’s store while pursuing painting and writing.
Prior to his mother’s death, Kahlil also began writing and translating various articles for Boston’s Arabic /Lebanese newspapers. Through the translation work, he established contacts within the Boston artistic community giving Kahlil the encouragement and patronage he desperately needed. His mother, however, questioning his friendships with the Art Nouveau/Romantic community, sent him back to Lebanon for more education. He found his father the same aggressive, angry alcoholic Kahlil had fled years before, and he quickly returned to Boston and his mother.
Boston’s literary critics found Kahlil’s grammar stilted and his spiritual style hard to understand. Acceptance in the larger literary circles remained out of reach but several years passed before Gibran, upon the advice of friends, relocated to New York. Once there, Gibran’s prose poems and parable style writings established his reputation as a respected writer.
In 1931, Gibran died from causes related to alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver. He was 48 years of age. His body was returned to Lebanon, where he was buried.
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. . .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.”
Then said a rich man, Speak to us of Giving. And he answered: You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? . . . . . . It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving. And is there aught you would withhold? All you have shall some day be given; Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’. . .
Gibran, Khalil. The Prophet. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (1926, 1970).
Naimy. “The Mind and Thought of Khalil Gibran.” Journal of Arabic Literature, vol. 5, 1974, pp. 55–71.
Pantucek, Svetozar. “ANALYSIS OF THE PARABLES OF GIBRAN KHALIL GIBRAN.” Quaderni Di Studi Arabi, vol. 11, 1993, pp. 139–147.
Poetry Foundation. Kahlil Gibran. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/kahlil-gibran
Images via Wikipedia. All are in the public domain. For more information, click on each image.
A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate and fosters both dogs and cats and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.