Philosophical Poetry

Philosophical Poetry

Kahlil Gibran

Abstractions, imagery, descriptive language and metaphors

On Giving

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 will need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over prudent dog
burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?


There are those who give little of the much which they have — and they
give it for recognition and their hidden desire is to make their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
There are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they
seek joy, not give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands for such as these God speaks, and from behind their
eyes He smiles upon the earth.

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 it now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in the orchards, say not so, but only to the deserving.”
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and nights, is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers… and you are all receivers…assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather, rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be over-mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.


On Freedom

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 you 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 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.


On Reason and Passion

Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your
judgment would 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 is
my sing;
And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live
through its own daily resurrection, and like a phoenix rise above its own ashes.

I would have you 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
you 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.


Be the love, be the light
Be-gin.

~ namasté, Leah J. 🕊

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