The Farewell

- 1883-1931
And now it was evening.
     And Almitra the seeress said, Blessed be this day and this place and your spirit that has spoken.
     And he answered, Was it I who spoke? Was I not also a listener?

     Then he descended the steps of the Temple and all the people followed him. And he reached his ship and stood upon the deck.
     And facing the people again, he raised his voice and said:
     People of Orphalese, the wind bids me leave you.
     Less hasty am I than the wind, yet I must go.
     We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us.
     Even while the earth sleeps we travel.
     We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.

     Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken. But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in you memory, then I will come again,
     And with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak.
     Yea, I shall return with the tide,
     And though death may hide me, and the greater silence enfold me, yet again will I seek your understanding.
     And not in vain will I seek.
     It aught I have said is truth, that truth shall reveal itself in a clearer voice, and in words more kin to your thoughts.

     I go with the wind, people of Orphalese, but not down into emptiness;
     And if this day is not a fulfilment of your needs and my love, then let it be a promise till another day.
     Man’s needs change, but not his love, nor his desire that his love should satisfy his needs.
     Know therefore, that from the greater silence I shall return.
     The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather into a cloud and then fall down in rain. 
     And not unlike the mist have I been.
     In the stillness of the night I have walked in your streets, and my spirit has entered your houses,
     And your heart-beats were in my heart, and your breath was upon my face, and I knew you all.
     Ay, I knew your joy and your pain, and in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.
     And oftentimes I was among you a lake among the mountains.
     I mirrored the summits in you and the bending slopes, and even the passing flocks of your thoughts and your desires. 
     And to my silence came the laughter of your children in streams, and the longing of your youths in rivers.
     And when they reached my depth the streams and the rivers ceased not yet to sing.

     But sweeter still than laughter and greater than longing came to me.
     It was the boundless in you;
     The vast man in whom you are all but cells and sinews;
     He in whose chant all your singing is but a soundless throbbing.
     It is in the vast man that you are vast,
     And in beholding him that I beheld you and loved you.
     For what distances can love reach that are not in that vast sphere?
     What visions, what expectations and what presumptions can outsoar that flight?
     Like a giant oak tree covered with apple blossoms in the vast man in you.
     His might binds you to the earth, his fragrance lifts you into space, and in his durability you are deathless.

     You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.
     This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.
     To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.
     To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.

     Ay, you are like an ocean,
     And though heavy-grounded ships await the tide upon your shoes, yet, even like an ocean, you cannot hasten your tides.
     And like the seasons you are also,
     And though in your winter you deny your spring,
     Yet spring, reposing within you, smiles in her drowsiness and is not offended.
     Think not I say these things are in order that you may say the one to the other, “He praised us well. He saw but the good in us.”
     I only speak to you in words of that which you yourselves know in thought.
     And what is word knowledge but a shadow of wordless knowledge?
     Your thoughts and my words are waves from a sealed memory that keeps records of our yesterdays,
     And of the ancient days when the earth knew not us nor herself,
     And of nights when earth was upwrought with confusion.

     Wise men have come to you to give you of their wisdom. I came to take of your wisdom:
     And behold I have found that which is greater than wisdom.
     It is a flame spirit in you ever gathering more of itself, 
     While you, heedless of its expansion, bewail the withering of your days.
     It is life in quest of life in bodies that fear the grave.
  
     There are no graves here.
     These mountains and plains are a cradle and a stepping-stone.
     Whenever you pass by the field where you have laid your ancestors look well thereupon, and you shall see yourselves and your children dancing hand in hand.
     Verily you often make merry without knowing.

     Others have come to you to whom for golden promises made unto your faith you have given but riches and power and glory.
     Less than a promise have I given, and yet more generous have you been to me.
     You have given me my deeper thirsting after life.
     Surely there is no greater gift to a man than that which turns all this aims into parching lips and all life into a fountain.
     And in this lies my honour and my reward,—
     That whenever I come to the fountain to drink I find the living water itself thirsty;
     And it drinks me while I drink it.

     Some of you have deemed me proud and over-shy to receive gifts.
     Too proud indeed am I to receive wages, but not gifts.
     And though I have eaten berries among the hills when you would have had me sit at your board,
     And slept in the portico of the temple when you would gladly have sheltered me,
     Yet was it not your loving mindfulness of my days and my nights that made food sweet to my mouth and girdled my sleep with visions?

     For this I bless you most:
     You give much and know not that you give at all.
     Verily the kindness that gazes upon itself in a mirror turns to stone,
     And a good deed that calls itself by tender names becomes the parent to a curse.

     And some of you have called me aloof, and drunk with my own aloneness,
     And you have said, “He holds council with the trees of the forest but not with men.”
     He sits alone on hill-tops and looks down upon our city.”
     True it is that I have climbed the hills and walked in remote places.
     How could I have seen you save from a great height or a great distance?
     How can one be indeed near unless he be far?

     And others among you called unto me, not in words, and they said,
     “Stranger, stranger, lover of unreachable heights, why dwell you among the summits where eagles build their nests?
     Why seek you the unattainable?
     What storms would you trap in your net, 
     And what vaporous birds do you hunt in the sky?
     Come and be one of us.
     Descend and appease your hunger with our bread and quench your thirst with our wine.”
     In the solitude of their souls they said these things;
     But were their solitude deeper they would have known that I sought but the secret of your joy and your pain,
     And I hunted only your larger selves that walk the sky.

     But the hunter was also the hunted;
     For many of my arrows left my bow only to seek my own breast.
     And the flier was also the creeper;
     For when my wings were spread in the sun their shadow upon the earth was a turtle.
     And I the believer was also the doubter;
     For often have I put my finger in my own wound that I might have the greater belief in you and the greater knowledge of you.

     And it is with this belief and this knowledge that I say,
     You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields.
     That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind.
     It is not a thing that crawls into the sun for warmth or digs holes into darkness for safety,
     But a thing free, a spirit that envelopes the earth and moves in the ether.

     If these be vague words, then seek not to clear them.
     Vague and nebulous is the beginning of all things, but not their end,
     And I fain would have you remember me as a beginning.
     Life, and all that lives, is conceived in the mist and not in the crystal.
     And who knows but a crystal is mist in decay?

     This would I have you remember in remembering me:
     That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.
     Is it not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?
     And is it not a dream which none of you remember having dreamt, that builded your city and fashioned all there is in it?
     Could you but see the tides of that breath you would cease to see all else,
     And if you could hear the whispering of the dream you would hear no other sound.

     But you do not see, nor do you hear, and it is well.
     The veil that clouds your eyes shall be lifted by the hands that wove it,
     And the clay that fills your ears shall be pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.
     And you shall see
     And you shall hear.
     Yet you shall not deplore having known blindness, nor regret having been deaf.
     For in that day you shall know the hidden purposes in all things,
     And you shall bless darkness as you would bless light.

    After saying these things he looked about him, and he saw the pilot of his ship standing by the helm and gazing now at the full sails and now at the distance. 
     And he said:
     Patient, over patient, is the captain of my ship.
     The wind blows, and restless are the sails;
     Even the rudder begs direction;
     Yet quietly my captain awaits my silence.
     And these my mariners, who have heard the choir of the greater sea, they too have heard me patiently.
     Now they shall wait no longer.
     I am ready.
     The stream has reached the sea, and once more the great mother holds her son against her breast.

     Fare you well, people of Orphalese.
     This day has ended.
     It is closing upon us even as the waterlily upon its own tomorrow
     What was given us here we shall keep,
     And it if suffices not, then again must we come together and together stretch our hands unto the giver.
     Forget not that I shall come back to you.
     A little while, and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body.
     A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.

     Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
     It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
     You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
     But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
     The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
     If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
     And if our hands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky.

     So saying he made a signal to the seamen, and straightway they weighed anchor and cast the ship loose from its moorings, and they moved eastward.
     And a cry came from the people as form a single heart, and it rose into the dusk and was carried our over the sea like a great trumpeting.
     Only Almitra was silent, gazing after the ship until it had vanished into the mist.
     And when all the people were dispersed she still stood alone upon the sea-wall, remembering in her heart his saying,

     “A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.”
    


More by Kahlil Gibran

Love

They say the jackal and the mole 
Drink from the selfsame stream 
Where the lion comes to drink. 
And they say 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.

Defeat

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 leveled 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.

The Coming of the Ship

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.
     Then the gates of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea. And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.

     But as he descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his heart:
     How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.
     Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart of his pain and his aloneness without regret?
     Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
     It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.
     Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.

     Yet I cannot tarry longer.
     The sea that calls all things unto her calls me, and I must embark.
     For, to stay, though the hours burn in the night, is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mould.
     Fain would I take with me all that is here. But how shall I?
     A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave it wings. Alone must it seek the ether.
     And along and without his nest shall the eagle fly across the sun

     Now when he reached the foot of the hill, he turned again towards the sea, and he saw his ship approaching the harbor, and upon her prow the mariners, the men of his own land.

     And his soul cried out to them, and he said:
     Sons of my ancient mother, you riders of the tides,
     How often have you sailed in my dreams. and now you come in my awakening, which is my deeper dream.
     Ready am I to go, and my eagerness with sails full set awaits the wind.
     Only another breath will I breathe in this still air, only another loving look cast backward,
     And then I shall stand among you, a seafarer among seafarers.
     And you, vast sea, sleepless mother,
     Who alone are peace and freedom to the river and the stream,
     Only another winding will this stream make, only another murmur in this glade,
     And then shall I come to you, a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.

     And as he walked he saw from afar men and women leaving their fields and their vineyards and hastening towards the city gates.
     And he heard their voices calling his name, and shouting from field to field telling one another of the coming of the ship.

     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?
     And what shall I give unto him who has left his plough in midfurrow, or to him who has stopped the wheel of his winepress?
     Shall my heart become a tree heavy-laden with fruit that I may gather and give unto them?
     And shall my desires flow like a fountain that I may fill their cups?
     Am I a harp that the hand of the mighty may touch me, or a flute that his breath may pass through me
     A seeker of silences am I, and what treasure have I found in silences that I may dispense with confidence?
     If this is my day of harvest, in what fields have I sowed the seed, and in what unremembered seasons?
     If this indeed be the hour in which I lift up my lantern, it is not my flame that shall burn therein.
     Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern,
     And the guardian of the night shall fill it with oil and he shall light it also.

     These things he said in words But much in his heart remained unsaid. For he himself could not speak his deeper secret.

     And when he entered into the city all the people came to meet him, and they were crying out to him as with one voice.
     And the elders of the city stood forth and said:
     Go not yet away from us.
     A noontide have you been in our twilight, and your youth has given us dreams to dream.
     No stranger are you among us, nor a guest, but our sun and our dearly beloved.
     Suffer not yet our eyes to hunger for your face.

     And the priests and the priestesses said unto him:
     Let not the waves of the sea separates us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory.
     You have walked among us a spirit, and your shadow has been a light upon our faces.
     Much have we loved you. But speechless was our love, and with veils has it been veiled.
     Yet now it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed before you.
     And ever has it been  that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
     And others came also and entreated him. But he answered them not. He only bent his head; and those who stood near saw his tears falling upon his breast.
     And he and the people proceeded towards the great square before the temple.

     And there came out of the sanctuary a woman whose name was Almitra. And she was a seeress.
     And he looked upon her with exceeding tenderness, for it was she who had first sought and believed in him when he had been but a day in their city.
     And she hailed him, saying:
     Prophet of God, in quest of the uttermost, long have you searched the distances for your ship.
     And now your ship has come, and you must needs go.
     Deep is your longing for the land of your memories and the dwelling place of your greater desires; and our love would not bind you nor our needs hold you.
     Yet this we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us and give us of your truth.
     And we will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it shall not perish.
     In your aloneness you have watched with our days, and in your wakefulness you have listened to the weeping and the laughter of our sleep.
     Now therefore disclose us to ourselves, and tell us all that has been shown you of that which is between birth and death.

     And he answered,
     People of Orphalese, of what can I speak save of that which is even now moving within your souls?