gibran poems

Defeat, my Defeat,
my solitude and my aloofness.
You are dearer to me
than a thousand triumphs,
and sweeter to my heart
than all world glory.

Defeat, my Defeat,
my self-knowledge and my defiance.
Through you I know that
I am yet young and swift of foot
and not to be trapped
by withering laurels.
And in you
I have found aloneness
and the joy of
being shunned and scorned.

Defeat, my Defeat,
my shining sword and shield.
In your eyes I have read
that to be enthroned
is to be enslaved,
and to be understood
is to be levelled down,
and to be grasped
is but to reach one’s fullness
and like a ripe fruit
to fall and be consumed.

Defeat, my Defeat,
my bold companion,
you shall hear my songs
and my cries and my silences,
and none but you shall speak to me
of the beating of wings,
and urging of seas,
and of mountains
that burn in the night,
and you alone shall climb
my steep and rocky soul.

Defeat, my Defeat,
my deathless courage,
you and I shall laugh together
with the storm,
and together we shall dig graves
for all that die in us,
and we shall stand
in the sun with a will,
and we shall be dangerous.

They say the jackal and the mole
Drink from the self-same stream
Where the lion comes to drink.

And the eagle and the vulture
Dig their beaks into the same carcass,
And are at peace, one with the other,
In the presence of the dead thing.

O love, whose lordly hand
Has bridled my desires,
And raised my hunger and my thirst
To dignity and pride,

Let not the strong in me and the constant
Eat the bread or drink the wine
That tempt my weaker self.

Let me rather starve,
And let my heart parch with thirst,
And let me die and perish,
Ere I stretch my hand
To a cup you did not fill,
Or a bowl you did not bless.

Out of my deeper heart
A bird rose and flew skyward.
Higher and higher did it rise,
Yet larger and larger did it grow.

At first it was but like a swallow,
Then a lark, then an eagle,
Then as vast as a spring cloud,
And then it filled the starry heavens.

Out of my heart a bird flew skyward.
And it waxed larger as it flew.
Yet it left not my heart.

Your thought is a tree
rooted deep in the soil of tradition
and whose branches grow
in the power of continuity.

My thought is a cloud
moving in the space.
It turns into drops which,
as they fall, form a brook
that sings its way into the sea.
Then it rises as vapour into the sky.

Your thought is a fortress
that neither gale nor
the lightning can shake.

My thought is a tender leaf
that sways in every direction
and finds pleasure in its swaying.

Your thought is an ancient dogma
that cannot change you
nor can you change it.

My thought is new,
and it tests me and
I test it morn and eve.

You have your thought
and I have mine.

Your thought allows you
to believe in the unequal contest
of the strong against the weak,
and in the tricking of the simple
by the subtle ones.

My thought creates in me
the desire to till the earth
with my hoe, and
harvest the crops
with my sickle,
and build my home
with stones and mortar,
and weave my raiment
with woollen and linen threads.

Your thought urges you
to marry wealth and notability.

Mine commends self-reliance.

Your thought advocates
fame and show.

Mine counsels me
and implores me
to cast aside notoriety
and treat it like a grain of sand
cast upon the shore of eternity.

Your thought instils in your heart
arrogance and superiority.

Mine plants within me
love for peace and
the desire for independence.

Your thought begets
dreams of palaces
with furniture of sandalwood
studded with jewels, and beds
made of twisted silk threads.

My thought speaks
softly in my ears,
“Be clean in body and spirit
even if you have nowhere
to lay your head.”

Your thought makes you
aspire to titles and offices.

Mine exhorts me to humble service.

You have your thought and I have mine.

Your thought is social science,
a religious and political dictionary.

Mine is simple axiom.

Your thought speaks of
the beautiful woman, the ugly,
the virtuous, the prostitute,
the intelligent, and the stupid.

Mine sees in every woman
a mother, a sister, or
a daughter of every man.

The subjects of your thought
are thieves, criminals, and assassins.

Mine declares that
thieves are the creatures of monopoly,
criminals are the offspring of tyrants,
and assassins are akin to the slain.

Your thought describes
laws, courts, judges, punishments.

Mine explains that
when man makes a law,
he either violates it or obeys it.
If there is a basic law,
we are all one before it.
He who disdains the mean
is himself mean.
He who vaunts
his scorn of the sinful
vaunts his disdain of all humanity.

Your thought concerns the skilled,
the artist, the intellectual,
the philosopher, the priest.

Mine speaks of the loving and
the affectionate, the sincere,
the honest, the forthright, the kindly,
and the martyr.

Your thought advocates
Judaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism,
Christianity, and Islam.

In my thought there is only
one universal religion,
whose varied paths are but
the fingers of the loving hand
of the Supreme Being.

In your thought there are the rich,
the poor, and the beggared.

My thought holds that
there are no riches but life;
that we are all beggars,
and no benefactor exists
save life herself.

You have your thought
and I have mine.

According to your thought,
the greatness of nations lies
in their politics, their parties,
their conferences, their alliances
and treaties.

But mine proclaims that
the importance of nations lies in work
– work in the field,
work in the vineyards,
work with the loom,
work in the tannery,
work in the quarry,
work in the timberyard,
work in the office and in the press.

Your thought holds that
the glory of the nations
is in their heroes.
It sings the praises of
Rameses, Alexander, Caesar,
Hannibal, and Napoleon.

But mine claims that
the real heroes are Confucius,
Lao-Tse, Socrates, Plato,
Abi Taleb, El Gazali,
Jalal Ed-din-el Roumy,
Copernicus, and Pasteur.

Your thought sees power
in armies, cannons, battleships,
submarines, aeroplanes,
and poison gas.

But mine asserts that
power lies in reason,
resolution, and truth.
No matter how long
the tyrant endures,
he will be the loser at the end.

Your thought differentiates
between pragmatist and idealist,
between the part and the whole,
between the mystic and materialist.

Mine realizes that life is one
and its weights, measures and tables
do not coincide with your weights,
measures and tables.
He whom you suppose an idealist
may be a practical man.

You have your thought
and I have mine.

Your thought is interested
in ruins and museums,
mummies and petrified objects.

But mine hovers in
the ever-renewed haze and clouds.

Your thought is enthroned on skulls.
Since you take pride in it,
you glorify it too.

My thought wanders
in the obscure and distant valleys.

Your thought trumpets while you dance.

Mine prefers the anguish of death
to your music and dancing.

Your thought is the thought of
gossip and false pleasure.

Mine is the thought of him
who is lost in his own country,
of the alien in his own nation,
of the solitary among
his kinfolk and friends.

You have your thought
and I have mine.

One hour devoted to the pursuit
Of beauty and love is worth
A full century of glory given
By the frightened weak
To the strong.

From that hour comes
Man’s truth; and
During that century
Truth sleeps between
The restless arms
Of disturbing dreams.

In that hour
The soul sees for herself
The Natural Law, and
For that century
She imprisons herself
Behind the law of man;
And she is shackled
With irons of oppression.

That hour was
The inspiration of
The Songs of Solomon, and
That century was
The blind power which destroyed
The temple of Baalbek.

That hour was
The birth of the Sermon
on the Mount, and
That century wrecked
The castles of Palmyra and
The Tower of Babylon.

That hour was
The hegira of Mohammed and
That century forgot
Allah, Golgotha, and Sinai.

One hour devoted to mourning
And lamenting the stolen equality
Of the weak is nobler than
A century filled with
Greed and usurpation.

It is at that hour
When the heart is purified
By flaming sorrow and
Illuminated by the torch of Love.
And in that century,
Desires for truth are buried
In the bosom of the earth.

That hour is the root
Which must flourish.
That hour of meditation,
The hour of prayer, and
The hour of a new era of good.

And that century is
A life of Nero spent on
Self-investment taken solely
From earthly substance.

This is life.
Portrayed on the stage for ages;
Recorded earthily for centuries;
Lived in strangeness for years;
Sung as a hymn for days;
Exalted but for an hour,
But the hour is treasured
By eternity as a jewel.

Where are you, my beloved?
Are you in that little paradise,
Watering the flowers
Who look upon you
As infants look upon
The breast of their mothers?

Or are you in your chamber
Where the shrine of virtue
Has been placed in your honor,
And upon which you offer my heart
And soul as sacrifice?

Or amongst the books,
Seeking human knowledge,
While you are replete
With heavenly wisdom?

Oh companion of my soul,
Where are you?
Are you praying in the temple?
Or calling nature in the Field,
Haven of your dreams?

Are you in the huts of the poor,
Consoling the broken-hearted
With the sweetness of your soul,
And filling their hands
With your bounty?

You are God’s spirit everywhere;
You are stronger than the ages.

Do you have memory of the day we met,
When the halo of you spirit
Surrounded us, and
the Angels of Love
Floated about,
Singing the praise of
the soul’s deed?

Do you recollect our sitting
In the shade of the branches,
Sheltering ourselves from Humanity,
As the ribs protect the divine secret
Of the heart from injury?

Remember you the trails and forest
We walked, with hands joined,
And our heads leaning
Against each other,
As if we were hiding
Ourselves within ourselves?

Recall you the hour
I bade you farewell,
And the Miriamite kiss
You placed on my lips?
That kiss taught me that
Joining of lips in Love
Reveals heavenly secrets
Which the tongue cannot utter!

That kiss was introduction
To a great sigh,
Like the Almighty’s breath
That turned earth into man.

That sigh let my way
Into the spiritual world,
Announcing the glory of my soul;
And there it shall perpetuate
Until again we meet.

I remember when you kissed me
And kissed me,
With tears coursing your cheeks,
And you said,
“Earthly bodies must often
Separate for earthly purpose,
And must live apart
Impelled by worldly intent.

“But the spirit remains joined
Safely in the hands of love,
Until death arrives and
Takes joined souls to God.

“Go, my beloved;
Love has chosen you her delegate;
Obey her, for she is Beauty
Who offers to her follower
The cup of the sweetness of life.
As for my own empty arms,
Your love shall remain
My comforting groom;
Your memory,
my Eternal wedding.”

Where are you now, my other self?
Are you awake in the silence of the night?
Let the clean breeze convey to you
My heart’s every beat and affection.

Are you fondling my face in your memory?
That image is no longer my own,
For sorrow has dropped his shadow
On my happy countenance of the past.

Sobs have withered my eyes
Which reflected your beauty
And dried my lips which
You sweetened with kisses.

Where are you, my beloved?
Do you hear my weeping
From beyond the ocean?
Do you understand my need?
Do you know the greatness
of my patience?

Is there any spirit in the air
Capable of conveying to you
The breath of this dying youth?
Is there any secret communication
Between angels that will carry to you
My complaint?

Where are you, my beautiful star?
The obscurity of life
Has cast me upon its bosom;
Sorrow has conquered me.

Sail your smile into the air;
It will reach and enliven me!
Breathe your fragrance into the air;
It will sustain me!

Where are you, me beloved?
Oh, how great is Love!
And how little am I!