Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Then one of the judges of the city stood forth and said, Speak to us of Crime and Punishment.
     And he answered, saying:
     It is when your spirit goes wandering upon the wind,
     That you, alone and unguarded, commit a wrong unto others and therefore unto yourself.
     And for that wrong committed must you knock and wait a while unheeded at the gate of the blessed.
     Like the ocean is your god-self;
     It remains for ever undefiled.
     And like the ether it lifts but the winged.
     Even like the sun is your god-self;
     It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it the holes of the serpent.
     But your god-self dwells not alone in your being.
     Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
     But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist searching for its own awakening.
     And of the man in you would I now speak.
     For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist, that knows crime and the punishment of crime.

     Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
     But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which his in each one of you,
     So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
     And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
     So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
     Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self.
     You are the way and the wayfarers.
     And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.
     Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.

     And this also, though the word lie heavy upon your hearts:
     The murdered is not unaccountable for his own murder,
     And the robbed is not blameless in being robbed.
     The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked,
     And the white-handed is not clean in the doings of the felon.
     Yea, the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured,
     And still more often the condemned is the burden bearer for the guiltless and unblamed.
     You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;
     For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together. 
     And when the black thread breaks the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

    If any of you would bring to judgement the unfaithful wife,
     Let him also weigh the heart of her husband in scales, and measure his soul with measurements.
     And let him who would lash the offender look unto the spirit of the offended.
     And if any of you would punish in the name of righteousness and lay the ax unto the evil tree, let him see to its roots;
     And verily he will find the roots of the good and the bad, the fruitful and the fruitless, all entwined together in the silent heart of the earth.
     And you judges who would be just,
     What judgement pronounce you upon him who though honest in the flesh yet is the thief in spirit?
     What penalty lay you upon him who slays in the flesh yet is himself slain in the spirit?
     And how prosecute you him who in action is a deceiver and an oppressor,
     Yet who also is aggrieved and outraged?

     And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?
     Is not remorse the justice which is administered by that very law which you would fain serve?
     Yet you cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty.
     Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves.
     And you who would understand justice, how shall you unless you look upon all deeds in the fullness of light?
     Only then shall you know that the erect and the fallen are but one man standing in twilight between the night of his pigmy-self and the day of his god-self,
     And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Then the lawyer said, But what of our Laws, master?
     And he answered;
     You delight in laying down laws,
     Yet you delight more in breaking them.
     Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with constancy and then destroy them with laughter.
     But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,
     And when you destroy them the ocean laughs with you.
     Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.

     But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers,
     But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own likeness?
     What of the cripple who hates dancers?
     What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer and the forest stray and vagrant things?
     What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless?
     And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violation and all feasters lawbreakers?

     What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun?
     They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
     And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?
     And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace their shadows upon the earth?
     But you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you?
     You who travel with the wind, what weather-vane shall direct your course?
     What man’s law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man’s prison door?
     What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man’s iron chains?
     And who is he that shall bring you to judgement if you tear off your garment yet leave it in no man’s path?

     People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

And an orator said, Speak to us of Freedom.
     And he answered:
     At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
     Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.
     Ay, in the grove of the temple and in the shadow of the citadel I have seen the freest among you wear their freedom as a yoke and a handcuff.
     And my heart bled within me; for you can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you, and when you cease to speak of freedom as a goal and a fulfilment.

     You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,
     But rather when these things girdle your life and yet your rise above them naked and unbound.

     And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?
     In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.

     And what is it but fragments of your own self you would discard that you may become free?
     If it is an unjust law you would abolish, that law was written with your own hand upon your own forehead.
     You cannot erase it by burning your law books nor by washing the foreheads of your judges, though you pour the sea upon them.
     And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.
     For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride?
     And if it is a care you would cast off, that care has been chosen by you rather than imposed upon you.
     And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared. 

     Verily all things move within your being in constant half embrace, the desired and the dreaded,the repugnant and the cherished, the pursued and that which you would escape.
     These things move within you as lights and shadows in pairs that cling.
     And when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light.
     And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

And the priestess spoke again and said: Speak to us of Reason and Passion.
     And he answered, saying:
     Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite. 
     Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody.
     But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?

     Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.
     If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.
     For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.
     Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;
     And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

     I would have your consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guests in your house.
     Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.

     Among the hills, when you sit in the cool shade of the white poplars, sharing the peace and serenity of distant fields, and meadows—then let your heart say in silence, “God rests in reason.”
     And when the storm comes, and the mighty wind shakes the forest, and thunder and lightning proclaim the majesty of the sky,—then let your heart say in awe, “God moves in passion.”
     And since you are a breath in God’s sphere, and a leaf in God’s forest, you too should rest in reason and move in passion.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.
     And he said:
     Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
     Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
     And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
     And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
     And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

     Much of your pain is self-chosen.
     It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.
     Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:
     For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,
     And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears. 

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

And a man said, Speak to us of Self-Knowledge.
And he answered, saying:
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.

And it is well you should.
The hidden well-spring of your soul must needs rise and run murmuring to the sea;
And the treasure of your infinite depths would be revealed to your eyes.
But let there be no scales ot weigh your unknown treasure;
And seek not the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line.
For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.” 
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

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 lovingness.
     If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
     The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.
     The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.
     And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
     For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
     And even as each one of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
    And he answered, saying:
    Your friend is your needs answered.
    He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
    And he is your board and your fireside.
    For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

    When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
    And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
    For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
    When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
    For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
    And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
    For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery us not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

    And let your best be for your friend.
    If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
    For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
    Seek him always with hours to live.
    For it is his to fill your need but not your emptiness.
    And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
    For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

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.

And an astronomer said, Master, what of Time?
     And he answered:
     You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable.
     You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons.
     Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing.

     Yet the timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness,
     And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream. 
     And that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.
     Who among you does not feel that his power to love is boundless?
     And yet who does not feel that very love, though boundless, encompassed within the centre of his being, and moving not from love thought to love thought, nor from love deeds to other love deeds?
     And is not time even as love is, undivided and spaceless?

     But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons,
     And let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing. 

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

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?”

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Then the priestess said, Speak to us of Prayer.
     And he answered, saying:
     You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.
     For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?
     And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart.
     And if you cannot but weep when your soul summons you to prayer, she should spur you again and yet again, though weeping, until you shall come laughing.
     When you pray you rise to meet in the air those who are praying at that very hour, and whom save in prayer you may not meet.
     Therefore let your visit to that temple invisible be for naught but ecstasy and sweet communion.
     For if you should enter the temple for no other purpose than asking you shall not receive:
     And if you should enter into it to humble yourself you shall not be lifted:
     Or even if you should enter into it to beg for the good of others you shall not be heard.
     It is enough that you enter the temple invisible.

     I cannot teach you how to pray in words.
     God listens not to your words save when He Himself utters them through your lips.
     And I cannot teach you the prayer of the seas and the forests and the mountains.
     But you who are born of the mountains and the forests and the seas can find their prayer in your heart, 
     And if you but listen in the stillness of the night your shall hear them saying in silence,
     “Our God, who are our winged self, it is thy will in us that willeth.
     It is thy desire in us that desireth.
     It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights, which are thine, into days which are thine also.
     We cannot ask thee for aught, for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
     Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all.”

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Then a hermit, who visited the city once a year, came forth and said, Speak to us of Pleasure.
     And he answered, saying:
     Pleasure is a freedom-song,
     But it is not freedom.
     It is the blossoming of your desires,
     But it is not their fruit.
     It is a depth calling unto a height,
     But it is not the deep nor the high.
     It is the caged taking wing,
     But it is not space encompassed.
     Ay, in very truth, pleasure is a freedom-song.
     And I fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart; yet I would not have you lose your hearts in the singing.

     Some of your youth seek pleasure as if it were all, and they are judged and rebuked.
     I would not judge nor rebuke them. I would have them seek.
     For they shall find pleasure, but not her alone;
     Seven are her sisters, and the least of them is more beautiful than pleasure.
     Have you not heard of the man who was digging in the earth for roots and found a treasure?

     And some of your elders remember pleasures with regret like wrongs committed in drunkenness.
     But regret is the beclouding of the mind and not its chastisement.
     They should remember their pleasures with gratitude, as they would the harvest of a summer.
     Yet if it comforts them to regret, let them be comforted.

     And there are among you those who are neither young to seek nor old to remember;
     And in their fear of seeking and remembering they shun all pleasures, lest they neglect the spirit or offend against it.
     But even in their foregoing is their pleasure.
     And thus they too find a treasure though they dig for roots with quivering hands.
     But tell me, who is he that can offend the spirit?
     Shall the nightingale offend the stillness of the night, or the firefly the stars?
     And shall your flame or your smoke burden the wind?
     Think you the spirit is a still pool which you can trouble with a staff?

     Oftentimes in denying yourself pleasure you do but store the desire in the recesses of your being.
     Who knows but that which seems omitted today, waits for tomorrow?
     Even your body knows its heritage and its rightful need and will not be deceived.
     And your body is the harp of your soul,
     And it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.

     And now you ask in your heart, “How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”
     Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
     But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
     For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
     And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
     And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.

     People of Orphalese, be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
     And he answered:
     Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall your find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
     And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

     The aggrieved and the injured say, “Beauty is kind and gentle. 
     Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.”
     And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
     Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.”

     The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
     Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
     But the restless say, “We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
     And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.”

     At night the watchmen of the city say, “Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, “We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.”

     In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say, “We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.”
     All these things have you said of beauty,
     Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
     And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy
     It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
     But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
     It is not in the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
     But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
     It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
     But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

     People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
     But you are life and you are the veil.
     Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
     But you are eternity and you are the mirror. 

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

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 loom?
     Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
     Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself’ This for my soul, and this other for my body?”
     All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
     He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.
     The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.
     And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
     The freest song comes not through bars and wires.
     And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

     Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
     Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.
     Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,
     The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight. 
     For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.
     And take with you all men:
     For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

     And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.
     Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.
     And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.
      You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

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 the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
    For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

    In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
    And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
    Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
    Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
    Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
    Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

    For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
    And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.