Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)

On Good and Evil

Kahlil Gibran 1883 (Bsharri, Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate) – 1931 ( New York City)



And one of the elders of the city said, Speak to us of Good and Evil.
  And he answered:
  Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
  For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
  Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.
 
  You are good when you are one with yourself.
  Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
  For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
  And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.

  You are good when you strive to give of yourself.
  Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
  For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.
  Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, “Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance.”
  For to the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.

  You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
  Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
  And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.

  You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
  Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
  Even those who limp go not backward.
  But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.

  You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
  You are only loitering and sluggard.
  Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.

  In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.
  But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
  And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
  But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, “Wherefore are you slow and halting?”
  For the truly good ask not the naked, “Where is your garment?” nor the houseless, “What has befallen your house?”
Font size:
 

Submitted by halel on July 13, 2020

2:07 min read
102 Views

Kahlil Gibran

Gibran Khalil Gibran (Arabic: جبران خليل جبران‎, ALA-LC: Jubrān Khalīl Jubrān, pronounced [ʒʊˈbraːn xaˈliːl ʒʊˈbraːn], or Jibrān Khalīl Jibrān, pronounced [ʒɪˈbraːn xaˈliːl ʒɪˈbraːn]; January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931), usually referred to in English as Kahlil Gibran (pronounced kah-LEEL ji-BRAHN), was a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist, also considered a philosopher although he himself rejected the title. He is best known as the author of The Prophet, which was first published in the United States in 1923 and has since become one of the best-selling books of all time, having been translated into more than 100 languages. Born in a village of the Ottoman-ruled Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate to a Maronite family, the young Gibran immigrated with his mother and siblings to the United States in 1895. As his mother worked as a seamstress, he was enrolled at a school in Boston, where his creative abilities were quickly noticed by a teacher who presented him to photographer and publisher F. Holland Day. Gibran was sent back to his native land by his family at the age of fifteen to enroll at the Collège de la Sagesse in Beirut. Returning to Boston upon his youngest sister's death in 1902, he lost his older half-brother and his mother the following year, seemingly relying afterwards on his remaining sister's income from her work at a dressmaker's shop for some time. In 1904, Gibran's drawings were displayed for the first time at Day's studio in Boston, and his first book in Arabic was published in 1905 in New York City. With the financial help of a newly met benefactress, Mary Haskell, Gibran studied art in Paris from 1908 to 1910. While there, he came in contact with Syrian political thinkers promoting rebellion in the Ottoman Empire after the Young Turk Revolution; some of Gibran's writings, voicing the same ideas as well as anti-clericalism, would eventually be banned by the Ottoman authorities. In 1911, Gibran settled in New York, where his first book in English, The Madman, would be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1918, with writing of The Prophet or The Earth Gods also underway. His visual artwork was shown at Montross Gallery in 1914, and at the galleries of M. Knoedler & Co. in 1917. He had also been corresponding remarkably with May Ziadeh since 1912. In 1920, Gibran re-founded the Pen League with fellow Mahjari poets. By the time of his death at the age of 48 from cirrhosis and incipient tuberculosis in one lung, he had achieved literary fame on "both sides of the Atlantic Ocean," and The Prophet had already been translated into German and French. His body was transferred to his birth village of Bsharri (in present-day Lebanon), to which he had bequeathed all future royalties on his books, and where a museum dedicated to his works now stands. As worded by Suheil Bushrui and Joe Jenkins, Gibran's life has been described as one "often caught between Nietzschean rebellion, Blakean pantheism and Sufi mysticism." Gibran discussed different themes in his writings, and explored diverse literary forms. Salma Khadra Jayyusi has called him "the single most important influence on Arabic poetry and literature during the first half of [the twentieth] century," and he is still celebrated as a literary hero in Lebanon. At the same time, "most of Gibran's paintings expressed his personal vision, incorporating spiritual and mythological symbolism," with art critic Alice Raphael recognizing in the painter a classicist, whose work owed "more to the findings of Da Vinci than it [did] to any modern insurgent." His "prodigious body of work" has been described as "an artistic legacy to people of all nations."  more…

All Kahlil Gibran poems | Kahlil Gibran Books

FAVORITE (1 fan)

Discuss this Kahlil Gibran poem with the community:

0 Comments

    Translation

    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)

    Citation

    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:

    Style:MLAChicagoAPA

    "On Good and Evil" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 16 Oct. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/54016/on-good-and-evil>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    Browse Poetry.com

    Quiz

    Are you a poetry master?

    »
    Which female American poet, who was little-known during her lifetime, but had nearly 1800 of her poems published posthumously, rarely titled her poems?
    • A. Amy Lowell
    • B. Emily Dickinson
    • C. Sara Teasdale
    • D. Sylvia Plath

    Our favorite collection of

    Famous Poets

    »