A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook
Title: The Garden Of The Prophet
Author: Kahlil Gibran
eBook No.: 0500581h.html
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Date first posted: June 2005
Date most recently updated: January 2020
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THE GARDEN OF THE PROPHET
by Kahlil Gibran
ALMUSTAFA, the chosen and the beloved,
who was a noon unto his own day, returned to the isle of his birth
in the month of Tichreen, which is the month of remembrance.
And as his ship approached the harbour, he stood upon its prow, and
his mariners were about him. And there was a homecoming in his
And he spoke, and the sea was in his voice, and he said:
“Behold, the isle of our birth. Even here the earth heaved
us, a song and a riddle; a song unto the sky, a riddle unto the
earth; and what is there between earth and sky that shall carry the
song and solve the riddle save our own passion?
“The sea yields us once more to these shores. We are but
another wave of her waves. She sends us forth to sound her speech,
but how shall we do so unless we break the symmetry of our heart on
rock and sand?
“For this is the law of mariners and the sea: If you would
freedom, you must needs turn to mist. The formless is for ever
seeking form, even as the countless nebulae would become suns and
moons; and we who have sought much and return now to this isle,
rigid moulds, we must become mist once more and learn of the
beginning. And what is there that shall live and rise unto the
heights except it be broken unto passion and freedom?
“For ever shall we be in quest of the shores, that we may
sing and be heard. But what of the wave that breaks where no ear
shall hear? It is the unheard in us that nurses our deeper sorrow.
Yet it is also the unheard which carves our soul to form and
fashion our destiny.”
Then one of his mariners came forth and said: “Master, you
have captained our longing for this harbour, and behold, we have
come. Yet you speak of sorrow, and of hearts that shall be
And he answered him and said: “Did I not speak of freedom,
and of the mist which is our greater freedom? Yet it is in pain I
make pilgrimage to the isle where I was born, even like unto a
ghost of one slain come to kneel before those who have slain
And another mariner spoke and said: “Behold, the multitudes
on the sea-wall. In their silence they have foretold even the day
and the hour of your coming, and they have gathered from their
fields and vineyards in their loving need, to await you.”
And Almustafa looked afar upon the multitudes, and his heart was
mindful of their yearning, and he was silent.
Then a cry came from the people, and it was a cry of remembrance
and of entreaty.
And he looked upon his mariners and said: “And what have I
brought them? A hunter was I, in a distant land. With aim and might
I have spent the golden arrows they gave me, but I have brought
down no game. I followed not the arrows. Mayhap they are spreading
now in the sun with the pinions of wounded eagles that would not
fall to the earth. And mayhap the arrow-heads have fallen into the
hands of those who had need of them for bread and wine.
“I know not where they have spent their flight, but this I
know: they have made their curve in the sky.
“Even so, love’s hand is still upon me, and you, my
mariners, still sail my vision, and I shall not be dumb. I shall
cry out when the hand of the seasons is upon my throat, and I shall
sing my words when my lips are burned with flames.”
And they were troubled in their hearts because he spoke of these
things. And one said: “Master, teach us all, and mayhap
because your blood flows in our veins, and our breath is of your
fragrance, we shall understand.”
The he answered them, and the wind was in his voice, and he said:
“Brought you me to the isle of my birth to be a teacher? Not
yet have I been caged by wisdom. Too young am I and too verdant to
speak of aught but self, which is for ever the deep calling upon
“Let him who would have wisdom seek it in the buttercup or in
a pinch of red clay. I am still the singer. Still I shall sing the
earth, and I shall sing your lost dreaming that walks the day
between sleep and sleep. But I shall gaze upon the sea.”
And now the ship entered the harbour and reached the sea-wall, and
he came thus to the isle of his birth and stood once more amongst
his own people. And a great cry arose from their hearts so that the
loneliness of his home-coming was shaken within him.
And they were silent awaiting his word, but he answered them not,
for the sadness of memory was upon him, and he said in his heart:
“Have I said that I shall sing? Nay, I can but open my lips
that the voice of life may come forth and go out to the wind for
joy and support.”
Then Karima, she who had played with him, a child, in the Garden of
his mother, spoke and said: “Twelve years have you hidden
your face from us, and for twelve years have we hungered and
thirsted for your voice.”
And he looked upon her with exceeding tenderness, for it was she
who had closed the eyes of his mother when the white wings of death
had gathered her.
And he answered and said: “Twelve years? Said you twelve
years, Karima? I measured not my longing with the starry rod, nor
did I sound the depth thereof. For love when love is homesick
exhausts time’s measurements and time’s soundings.
“There are moments that hold aeons of separation. Yet parting
is naught but an exhaustion of the mind. Perhaps we have not
And Almustafa looked upon the people, and he saw them all, the
youth and the aged, the stalwart and the puny, those who were ruddy
with the touch of wind and sun, and those who were of pallid
countenance; and upon their face a light of longing and of
And one spoke and said: “Master, life has dealt bitterly with
our hopes and our desires. Our hearts are troubled, and we do not
understand. I pray you, comfort us, and open to us the meanings of
And his heart was moved with compassion, and he said: “Life
is older than all things living; even as beauty was winged ere the
beautiful was born on earth, and even as truth was truth ere it was
“Life sings in our silences, and dreams in our slumber. Even
when we are beaten and low, Life is enthroned and high. And when we
weep, Life smiles upon the day, and is free even when we drag our
“Oftentimes we call Life bitter names, but only when we
ourselves are bitter and dark. And we deem her empty and
unprofitable, but only when the soul goes wandering in desolate
places, and the heart is drunken with over-mindfulness of self.
“Life is deep and high and distant; and though only your vast
vision can reach even her feet, yet she is near; and though only
the breath of your breath reaches her heart, the shadow of your
shadow crosses her face, and the echo of your faintest cry becomes
a spring and an autumn in her breast.
“And Life is veiled and hidden, even as your greater self is
hidden and veiled. Yet when Life speaks, all the winds become
words; and when she speaks again, the smiles upon your lips and the
tears in your eyes turn also into words. When she sings, the deaf
hear and are held; and when she comes walking, the sightless behold
her and are amazed and follow her in wonder and
And he ceased from speaking, and a vast silence enfolded the
people, and in the silence there was an unheard song, and they were
comforted of their loneliness and their aching.
AND he left them
straightway and followed the path which led to his Garden, which
was the Garden of his mother and his father, wherein they lay
asleep, they and their forefathers.
And there were those who would have followed after him, seeing that
it was a home-coming, and he was alone, for there was not one left
of all his kin to spread the feast of welcome, after the manner of
But the captain of his ship counselled them saying: “Suffer
him to go upon his way. For his bread is the bread of aloneness,
and in his cup is the wine of remembrance, which he would drink
And his mariners held their steps, for they knew it was even as the
captain of the ship had told them. And all those who gathered upon
the sea-wall restrained the feet of their desire.
Only Karima went after him, a little way, yearning over his
aloneness and his memories. And she spoke not, but turned and went
unto her own house, and in the garden under the almond-tree she
wept, yet she knew not wherefore.
came and found the Garden of his mother and his father, and he
entered in, and closed the gate that no man might come after
And for forty days and forty nights he dwelt alone in that house
and that Garden, and none came, not even unto the gate, for it was
closed, and all the people knew that he would be alone.
And when the forty days and nights were ended, Almustafa opened the
gate that they might come in.
And there came nine men to be with him in the Garden; three
mariners from his own ship; three who had served in the Temple; and
three who had been his comrades in play when they were but children
together. And these were his disciples.
And on a morning his disciples sat around him, and there were
distances and remembrances in his eyes. And that disciple who was
called Hafiz said unto him: “Master, tell us of the city of
Orphalese, and of that land wherein you tarried those twelve
And Almustafa was silent, and he looked away towards the hills and
toward the vast ether, and there was a battle in his silence.
Then he said: “My friends and my road-fellows, pity the
nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
“Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a
bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from
its own winepress.
“Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that
deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
“Pity the nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet
submits in its awakening.
“Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks
in a funeral, boasts not except when its neck is laid between the
sword and the block.
“Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher
is a juggle, and whose art is the art of patching and
“Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with
trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome
another with trumpetings again.
“Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose
strong men are yet in the cradle.
“Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment
deeming itself a nation.”
AND one said:
“Speak to us of that which is moving in your own heart even
And he looked upon that one, and there was in his voice a sound
like a star singing, and he said: “In your waking dream, when
you are hushed and listening to your deeper self, your thoughts,
like snow- flakes, fall and flutter and garment all the sounds of
your spaces with white silence.
“And what are waking dreams but clouds that bud and blossom
on the sky-tree of your heart? And what are your thoughts but the
petals which the winds of your heart scatter upon the hills and its
“And even as you wait for peace until the formless within you
takes form, so shall the cloud gather and drift until the Blessed
Fingers shape its grey desire to little crystal suns and moons and
Then Sarkis, he who was the half-doubter, spoke and said:
“But spring shall come, and all the snows of our dreams and
our thoughts shall melt and be no more.”
And he answered saying: “When Spring comes to seek His
beloved amongst the slumbering groves and vineyards, the snows
shall indeed melt and shall run in streams to seek the river in the
valley, to be the cup-bearer to the myrtle-trees and laurel.
“So shall the snow of your heart melt when your Spring is
come, and thus shall your secret run in streams to seek the river
of life in the valley. And the river shall enfold your secret and
carry it to the great sea.
“All things shall melt and turn into songs when Spring comes.
Even the stars, the vast snow-flakes that fall slowly upon the
larger fields, shall melt into singing streams. When the sun of His
face shall rise above the wider horizon, then what frozen symmetry
would not turn into liquid melody? And who among you would not be
the cup-bearer to the myrtle and the laurel?
“It was but yesterday that you were moving with the moving
sea, and you were shoreless and without a self. Then the wind, the
breath of Life, wove you, a veil of light on her face; then her
hand gathered you and gave you form, and with a head held high you
sought the heights. But the sea followed after you, and her song is
still with you. And though you have forgotten your parentage, she
will for ever assert her motherhood, and for ever will she call you
“In your wanderings among the mountains and the desert you
will always remember the depth of her cool heart. And though
oftentimes you will not know for what you long, it is indeed for
her vast and rhythmic peace.
“And how else can it be? In grove and in bower when the rain
dances in leaves upon the hill, when snow falls, a blessing and a
covenant; in the valley when you lead your flocks to the river; in
your fields where brooks, like silver streams. join together the
green garment; in your gardens when the early dews mirror the
heavens; in your meadows when the mist of evening half veils your
way; in all these the sea is with you, a witness to your heritage,
and a claim upon your love.
“It is the snow-flake in you running down to the sea.”
AND on a morning
as they walked in the Garden, there appeared before the gate a
woman, and it was Karima, she whom Almustafa had loved even as a
sister in his boyhood. And she stood without, asking nothing, nor
knocking with her hand upon the gate, but only gazing with longing
and sadness into the Garden.
And Almustafa saw the desire upon her eyelids, and with swift steps
he came to the wall and the gate and opened unto her, and she came
in and was made welcome.
And she spoke and said: “Wherefore have you withdrawn
yourself from us altogether, that we may not live in the light of
your countenance? For behold, these many years have we loved you
and waited with longing for your safe return. And now the people
cry for you and would have speech with you; and I am their
messenger come to beseech you that you will show yourself to the
people, and speak to them out of your wisdom, and comfort the
broken of heart and instruct our foolishness.”
And looking upon her, he said: “Call me not wise unless you
call all men wise. A young fruit am I, still clinging to the
branch, and it was only yesterday that I was but a blossom.
“And call none among you foolish, for in truth we are neither
wise nor foolish. We are green leaves upon the tree of life, and
life itself is beyond wisdom, and surely beyond foolishness.
“And have I indeed withdrawn myself from you? Know you not
that there is no distance save that which the soul does not span in
fancy? And when the soul shall span that distance, it becomes a
rhythm in the soul.
“The space that lies between you and your near neighbour
unbefriended is indeed greater than that which lies between you and
your beloved who dwells beyond seven lands and seven seas.
“For in remembrance there are no distances; and only in
oblivion is there a gulf that neither your voice nor your eye can
“Between the shores of the oceans and the summit of the
highest mountain there is a secret road which you must needs travel
ere you become one with the sons of earth.
“And between your knowledge and your understanding there is a
secret path which you must needs discover ere you become one with
man, and therefore one with yourself.
“Between your right hand that gives and your left hand that
receives there is a great space. Only by deeming them both giving
and receiving can you bring them into spacelessness, for it is only
in knowing that you have naught to give and naught to receive that
you can overcome space.
“Verily the vastest distance is that which lies between your
sleep-vision and your wakefulness; and between that which is but a
deed and that which is a desire.
“And there is still another road which you must needs travel
ere you become one with Life. But of that road I shall not speak
now, seeing that you are weary already of travelling.”
THEN he went
forth with the woman, he and the nine, even unto the market-place,
and he spoke to the people, his friends and his neighbours, and
there was joy in their hearts and upon their eyelids.
And he said: “You grow in sleep, and live your fuller life in
you dreaming. For all your days are spent in thanksgiving for that
which you have received in the stillness of the night.
“Oftentimes you think and speak of night as the season of
rest, yet in truth night is the season of seeking and finding.
“The day gives unto you the power of knowledge and teaches
your fingers to become versed in the art of receiving; but it is
night that leads you to the treasure-house of Life.
“The sun teaches to all things that grow their longing for
the light. But it is night that raises them to the stars.
“It is indeed the stillness of the night that weaves a
wedding-veil over the trees in the forest, and the flowers in the
garden, and then spreads the lavish feast and makes ready the
nuptial chamber; and in that holy silence tomorrow is conceived in
the womb of Time.
‘Thus it is with you, and thus, in seeking, you find meat and
fulfilment. And though at dawn your awakening erases the memory,
the board of dreams is for ever spread, and the nuptial chamber
And he was silent for a space, and they also, awaiting his word.
Then he spoke again, saying: “You are spirits though you move
in bodies; and like oil that burns in the dark, you are flames
though held in lamps.
“If you were naught save bodies, then my standing before you
and speaking unto you would be but emptiness, even as the dead
calling unto the dead. But this is not so. All that is deathless in
you is free unto the day and the night and cannot be housed nor
fettered, for this is the will of the Most High. You are His breath
even as the wind that shall be neither caught nor caged. And I also
am the breath of His breath.”
And he went from their midst walking swiftly and entered again into
And Sarkis, he who was the half-doubter, spoke and said: “And
what of ugliness, Master? You speak never of ugliness.”
And Almustafa answered him, and there was a whip in his words, and
he said: “My friend, what man shall call you inhospitable if
he shall pass by your house, yet would not knock at your door?
“And who shall deem you deaf and unmindful if he shall speak
to you in a strange tongue of which you understand nothing?
“Is it not that which you have never striven to reach, into
whose heart you have never desired to enter, that you deem
“If ugliness is aught, indeed, it is but the scales upon our
eyes, and the wax filling our ears.
“Call nothing ugly, my friend, save the fear of a soul in the
presence of its own memories.”
AND upon a day
as they sat in the long shadows of the white poplars, one spoke
saying: “Master, I am afraid of time. It passes over us and
robs us of our youth, and what does it give in return?”
And he answered and said: “Take up now a handful of good
earth. Do you find in it a seed, and perhaps a worm? If your hand
were spacious and enduring enough, the seed might become a forest,
and the worm a flock of angels. And forget not that the years which
turn seeds to forests, and worms to angels, belong to this Now, all
of the years, this very Now.
“And what are the seasons of the years save your own thoughts
changing? Spring is an awakening in your breast, and summer but a
recognition of your own fruitfulness. Is not autumn the ancient in
you singing a lullaby to that which is still a child in your being?
And what, I ask you, is winter save sleep big with the dreams of
all the other seasons.”
And the Mannus, the inquisitive disciple, looked about him and he
saw plants in flower cleaving unto the sycamore-tree. And he said:
“Behold the parasites, Master. What say you of them? They are
thieves with weary eyelids who steal the light from the steadfast
children of the sun, and make fair of the sap that runneth into
their branches and their leaves.”
And he answered him saying: “My friend, we are all parasites.
We who labour to turn the sod into pulsing life are not above those
who receive life directly from the sod without knowing the sod.
“Shall a mother say to her child: ‘I give you back to
the forest, which is your greater mother, for you weary me, heart
“Or shall the singer rebuke his own song, saying:
‘Return now to the cave of echoes from whence you came, for
your voice consumes my breath’?
“And shall the shepherd say to his yearling: ‘I have no
pasture whereunto I may lead you; therefore be cut off and become a
sacrifice for this cause’?
“Nay, my friend, all these things are answered even before
they are asked, and, like your dreams, are fulfilled ere you
“We live upon one another according to the law, ancient and
timeless. Let us live thus in loving-kindness. We seek one another
in our aloneness, and we walk the road when we have no hearth to
“My friends and my brothers, the wider road is your
“These plants that live upon the tree draw milk of the earth
in the sweet stillness of night, and the earth in her tranquil
dreaming sucks at the breast of the sun.
“And the sun, even as you and I and all there is, sits in
equal honour at the banquet of the Prince whose door is always open
and whose board is always spread.
“Mannus, my friend, all there is lives always upon all there
is; and all there is lives in the faith, shoreless, upon the bounty
of the Most High.”
AND on a morning
when the sky was yet pale with dawn, they walked all together in
the Garden and looked unto the East and were silent in the presence
of the rising sun.
And after a while Almustafa pointed with his hand, and said:
“The image of the morning sun in a dewdrop is not less than
the sun. The reflection of life in your soul is not less than
“The dewdrop mirrors the light because it is one with light,
and you reflect life because you and life are one.
“When darkness is upon you, say: ‘This darkness is dawn
not yet born; and though night’s travail be full upon me, yet
shall dawn be born unto me even as unto the hills.’
“The dewdrop rounding its sphere in the dusk of the lily is
not unlike yourself gathering your soul in the heart of God.
“Shall a dewdrop say: ‘But once in a thousand years I
am a dewdrop,’ speak you and answer it saying: ‘Know
you not that the light of all the years is shining in your
AND on an
evening a great storm visited the place, and Almustafa and his
disciples, the nine, went within and sat about the fire and were
Then one of the disciples said: “I am alone, Master, and the
hoofs of the hours beat heavily upon my breast.”
And Almustafa rose up and stood in their midst, and he said in a
voice like unto the sound of a great wind: “Alone! And what
of it? You came alone, and alone shall you pass into the mist.
“Therefore drink your cup alone and in silence. The autumn
days have given other lips other cups and filled them with wine
bitter and sweet, even as they have filled your cup.
“Drink your cup alone though it taste of your own blood and
tears, and praise life for the gift of thirst. For without thirst
your heart is but the shore of a barren sea, songless and without a
“Drink your cup alone, and drink it with cheers.
“Raise it high above your head and drink deep to those who
“Once I sought the company of men and sat with them at their
banquet-tables and drank deep with them; but their wine did not
rise to my head, nor did it flow into my bosom. It only descended
to my feet. My wisdom was left dry and my heart was locked and
sealed. Only my feet were with them in their fog.
“And I sought the company of men no more, nor drank wine with
them at their board.
“Therefore I say unto you, though the hoofs of the hours beat
heavily upon your bosom, what of it? It is well for you to drink
your cup of sorrow alone, and your cup of joy shall you drink alone
AND on a day, as
Phardrous, the Greek, walked in the Garden, he struck his foot upon
a stone and he was angered. And he turned and picked up the stone,
saying in a low voice: “O dead thing in my path!” and
he flung away the stone.
And Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, said: “Why say
you: ‘O dead thing’? Have you been thus long in this
Garden and know not that there is nothing dead here? All things
live and glow in the knowledge of the day and the majesty of the
night. You and the stone are one. There is a difference only in
heart-beats. Your heart beats a little faster, does it, my friend?
Ay, but it is not so tranquil.
“Its rhythm may be another rhythm, but I say unto you that if
you sound the depths of your soul and scale the heights of space,
you shall hear one melody, and in that melody the stone and the
star sing, the one with the other, in perfect unison.
“If my words reach not your understanding, then let be until
another dawn. If you have cursed this stone because in your
blindness you have stumbled upon it, then would you curse a star if
so be your head should encounter it in the sky. But the day will
come when you will gather stones and stars as a child plucks the
valley-lilies, and then shall you know that all these things are
living and fragrant.”
AND on the first
day of the week when the sounds of the temple bells sought their
ears, one spoke and said: “Master, we hear much talk of God
hereabout. What say you of God, and who is He in very
And he stood before them like a young tree, fearless of wind or
tempest, and he answered saying: “Think now, my comrades and
beloved, of a heart that contains all your hearts, a love that
encompasses all your loves, a spirit that envelops all your
spirits, a voice enfolding all your voices, and a silence deeper
than all your silences, and timeless.
“Seek now to perceive in your self-fullness a beauty more
enchanting than all things beautiful, a song more vast than the
songs of the sea and the forest, a majesty seated upon the throne
for which Orion is but a footstool, holding a sceptre in which the
Pleiades are naught save the glimmer of dewdrops.
“You have sought always only food and shelter, a garment and
a staff; seek now One who is neither an aim for your arrows nor a
stony cave to shield you from the elements.
“And if my words are a rock and a riddle, then seek, none the
less, that your hearts may be broken, and that your questionings
may bring you unto the love and the wisdom of the Most High, whom
men call God.”
And they were silent, every one, and they were perplexed in their
heart; and Almustafa was moved with compassion for them, and he
gazed with tenderness upon them and said: “Let us speak
rather of the gods, your neighbours, and of your brothers, the
elements that move about your houses and your fields.
“You would rise up in fancy unto the cloud, and you deem it
height; and you would pass over the vast sea and claim it to be
distance. But I say unto you that when you sow a seed in the earth,
you reach a greater height; and when you hail the beauty of the
morning to your neighbour, you cross a greater sea.
“Too often do you sing God, the Infinite, and yet in truth
you hear not the song. Would that you might listen to the
song-birds, and to the leaves that forsake the branch when the wind
passes by, and forget not, my friends, that these sing only when
they are separated from the branch!
“Again I bid you to speak not so freely of God, who is your
All, but speak rather and understand one another, neighbour unto
neighbour, a god unto a god.
“For what shall feed the fledgling in the nest if the mother
bird flies skyward? And what anemone in the fields shall be
fulfilled unless it be husbanded by a bee from another anemone?
“It is only when you are lost in your smaller selves that you
seek the sky which you call God. Would that you might find paths
into your vast selves; would that you might be less idle and pave
“My mariners and my friends, it were wiser to speak less of
God, whom we cannot understand, and more of each other, whom we may
understand. Yet I would have you know that we are the breath and
the fragrance of God. We are God, in leaf, in flower, and
oftentimes in fruit.”
AND on a morning
when the sun was high, one of the disciples, one of those three who
had played with him in childhood, approached him saying:
“Master, my garment is worn, and I have no other. Give me
leave to go unto the market-place and bargain that perchance I may
procure me new raiment.”
And Almustafa looked upon the young man, and he said: “Give
me your garment.” And he did so and stood naked in the
And Almustafa said in a voice that was like a young steed running
upon a road: “Only the naked live in the sun. Only the
artless ride the wind. And he alone who loses his way a thousand
times shall have a home-coming.
“The angels are tired of the clever. And it was but yesterday
that an angel said to me: ‘We created hell for those who
glitter. What else but fire can erase a shining surface and melt a
thing to its core?’
“And I said: ‘But in creating hell you created devils
to govern hell.’ But the angel answered: ‘Nay, hell is
governed by those who do not yield to fire.’
“Wise angel! He knows the ways of men and the ways of
half-men. He is one of the seraphim who come to minister unto the
prophets when they are tempted by the clever. And no doubt he
smiled when the prophets smile, and weeps also when they weep.
“My friends and my mariners, only the naked live in the sun.
Only the rudderless can sail the greater sea. Only he who is dark
with the night shall wake with the dawn, and only he who sleeps
with the roots under the snow shall reach the spring.
“For you are even like roots, and like roots are you simple,
yet you have wisdom from the earth. And you are silent, yet you
have within your unborn branches the choir of the four winds.
“You are frail and you are formless, yet you are the
beginning of giant oaks, and of the half-pencilled patterned of the
willows against the sky.
“Once more I say, you are but roots betwixt the dark sod and
the moving heavens. And oftentimes have I seen you rising to dance
with the light, but I have also seen you shy. All roots are shy.
They have hidden their hearts so long that they know not what to do
with their hearts.
“But May shall come, and May is a restless virgin, and she
shall mother the hills and plains.”
AND one who had
served in the Temple besought him saying: “Teach us, Master,
that our words may be even as your words, a chant and an incense
unto the people.”
And Almustafa answered and said: “You shall rise beyond your
words, but your path shall remain, a rhythm and a fragrance; a
rhythm for lovers and for all who are beloved, and a fragrance for
those who would live life in a garden.
“But you shall rise beyond your words to a summit whereon the
star-dust falls, and you shall open your hands until they are
filled; then you shall lie down and sleep like a white fledgling in
a white nest, and you shall dream of your tomorrow as white violets
dream of spring.
“Ay, and you shall go down deeper than your words. You shall
seek the lost fountain-heads of the streams, and you shall be a
hidden cave echoing the faint voices of the depths which now you do
not even hear.
“You shall go down deeper than your words, ay, deeper than
all sounds, to the very heart of the earth, and there you shall be
alone with Him who walks also upon the Milky Way.”
And after a space one of the disciples asked him saying:
“Master, speak to us of being. What is it to be?”
And Almustafa looked long upon him and loved him. And he stood up
and walked a distance away from them; then returning, he said:
“In this Garden my father and my mother lie, buried by the
hands of the living; and in this Garden lie buried the seeds of
yesteryear, bought hither upon the wings of the wind. A thousand
times shall my mother and my father be buried here, and a thousand
times shall the wind bury the seed; and a thousand years hence
shall you and I and these flowers come together in this Garden even
as now, and we shall be, loving life, and we shall be, dreaming of
space, and we shall be, rising towards the sun.
“But now today to be is to be wise, though not a stranger to
the foolish; it is to be strong, but not to the undoing of the
weak; to play with young children, not as fathers, but rather as
playmates who would learn their games;
“To be simple and guileless with old men and women, and to
sit with them in the shade of the ancient oak-trees, though you are
still walking with Spring;
“To seek a poet though he may live beyond the seven rivers,
and to be at peace in his presence, nothing wanting, nothing
doubting, and with no question upon your lips;
“To know that the saint and the sinner are twin brothers,
whose father is our Gracious King, and that one was born but the
moment before the other, wherefore we regard his as the Crowned
“To follow Beauty even when she shall lead you to the verge
of the precipice; and though she is winged and you are wingless,
and though she shall pass beyond the verge, follow her, for where
Beauty is not, there is nothing;
“To be a garden without walls, a vineyard without a guardian,
a treasure-house for ever open to passers-by;
“To be robbed, cheated, deceived, ay, misled and trapped and
then mocked, yet with it all to look down from the height of your
larger self and smile, knowing that there is spring that will come
to your garden to dance in your leaves, and an autumn to ripen your
grapes; knowing that if but one of your windows is open to the
East, you shall never be empty; knowing that all those deemed
wrongdoers and robbers, cheaters and deceivers are your brothers in
need, and that you are perchance all of these in the eyes of the
blessed inhabitants of that City Invisible, above this city.
“And now, to you also whose hands fashion and find all things
that are needful for the comfort of our days and our nights--
“To be is to be a weaver with seeing fingers, a builder
mindful of light and space; to be a ploughman and feel that you are
hiding a treasure with every seed you sow; to be a fisherman and a
hunter with a pity for the fish and for the beast, yet a still
greater pity for the hunger and need of man.
“And, above all, I say this: I would have you each and every
one partners to the purpose of every man, for only so shall you
hope to obtain your own good purpose.
“My comrades and my beloved, be bold and not meek; be
spacious and not confined; and until my final hour and yours be
indeed your greater self.”
And he ceased speaking and there fell a deep gloom upon the nine,
and their heart was turned away from him, for they understood not
And behold, the three men who were mariners longed for the sea; and
they who had served in the Temple yearned for the consolation of
her sanctuary; and they who had been his playfellows desired the
market-place. They all were deaf to his words, so that the sound of
them returned unto him like weary and homeless birds seeking
And Almustafa walked a distance from them in the Garden, saying
nothing, nor looking upon them.
And they began to reason among themselves and to seek excuse for
their longing to be gone.
And behold, they turned and went every man to his own place, so
that Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, was left alone.
AND when the
night was fully come, he took his steps to the grave-side of his
mother and sat beneath the cedar-tree which grew above the place.
And there came the shadow of a great light upon the sky, and the
Garden shone like a fair jewel upon the breast of earth.
And Almustafa cried out in the aloneness of his spirit, and he
“Heavy-laden is my soul with her own ripe fruit. Who is there
would come and take and be satisfied? Is there not one who has
fasted and who is kindly and generous in heart, to come and break
his fast upon my first yieldings to the sun and thus ease me of the
weight of mine own abundance?
“My soul is running over with the wine of the ages. Is there
no thirsty one to come and drink?
“Behold, there was a man standing at the cross-roads with
hands stretched forth unto the passers-by, and his hands were
filled with jewels. And he called upon the passers-by, saying:
‘Pity me, and take from me. In God’s name, take out of
my hands and console me.’
“But the passers-by only looked upon him, and none took out
of his hand.
“Would rather that he were a beggar stretching forth his hand
to receive – ay, a shivering hand, and brought back empty to
his bosom – than to stretch it forth full of rich gifts and
find none to receive.
“And behold, there was also the gracious prince who raised up
his silken tents between the mountain and the desert and bade his
servants to burn fire, a sign to the stranger and the wanderer; and
who sent forth his slaves to watch the road that they might fetch a
guest. But the roads and the paths of the desert were unyielding,
and they found no one.
“Would rather that prince were a man of nowhere and nowhen,
seeking food and shelter. Would that he were the wanderer with
naught but his staff and an earthen vessel. For then at nightfall
would he meet with his kind, and with the poets of nowhere and
nowhen, and share their beggary and their remembrances and their
“And behold, the daughter of the great king rose from sleep
and put upon her silken raiment and her pearls and rubies, and she
scattered musk upon her hair and dipped her fingers in amber. Then
she descended from her tower to her garden, where the dew of night
found her golden sandals.
“In the stillness of the night the daughter of a ploughman,
tending his sheep in a field, and returning to her father’s
house at eventide with the dust of the curving roads upon her feet,
and the fragrance of the vineyards in the folds of her garment.
And when the night is come, and the angel of the night is upon the
world, she would steal her steps to the river-valley where her
“Would that she were a nun in a cloister burning her heart
for incense, that her heart may rise to the wind, and exhausting
her spirit, a candle, for a light arising toward the greater light,
together with all those who worship and those who love and are
“Would rather that she were a woman ancient of years, sitting
in the sun and remembering who had shared her youth.”
And the night waxed deep, and Almustafa was dark with the night,
and his spirit was as a cloud unspent. And he cried again:
“Heavy-laden is my soul with her own ripe fruit;
Heavy-laden is my soul with her fruit.
Who now will come and eat and be fulfilled?
My soul is overflowing with her wine.
Who now will pour and drink and be cooled of the desert heat?
“Would that I were a tree flowerless and fruitless,
For the pain of abundance is more bitter than barrenness,
And the sorrow of the rich from whom no one will take
Is greater than the grief of the beggar to whom none would
“Would that I were a well, dry and parched , and men throwing
stones into me;
For this were better and easier to be borne than to be a source of
When men pass by and will not drink.
“Would that I were a reed trodden under foot,
For that were better than to be a lyre of silvery strings
In a house whose lord has no fingers
And whose children are deaf.”
NOW, for seven
days and seven nights no man came nigh the Garden, and he was alone
with is memories and his pain; for even those who had heard his
words with love and patience had turned away to the pursuits of
Only Karima came, with silence upon her face like a veil; and with
cup and plate within her hand, drink and meat for his aloneness and
his hunger. And after setting these before him, she walked her
And Almustafa came again to the company of the white poplars within
the gate, and he sat looking upon the road. And after a while he
beheld as it were a cloud of dust blown above the road and coming
toward him. And from out the cloud came the nine, and before them
Karima guiding them.
And Almustafa advanced and met them upon the road, and they passed
through the gate, and all was well, as though they had gone their
path but an hour ago.
They came in and supped with him at his frugal board, after that
Karima had laid upon it the bread and the fish and poured the last
of the wine into the cups. And as she poured, she besought the
Master saying: “Give me leave that I go into the city and
fetch wine to replenish your cups, for this is spent.”
And he looked upon her, and in his eyes were a journey and a far
country, and he said: “Nay, for it is sufficient unto the
And they ate and drank and were satisfied. And when it was
finished, Almustafa spoke in a vast voice, deep as the sea and full
as a great tide under the moon, and he said: “My comrades and
my road-fellows, we must needs part this day. Long have we climbed
the steepest mountains and we have wrestled with the storms. We
have known hunger, but we have also sat at wedding-feasts.
Oftentimes have we been naked, but we have also worn kingly
raiment. We have indeed travelled far, but now we part. Together
you shall go your way, and alone must I go mine.
“And though the seas and the vast lands shall separate us,
still we shall be companions upon our journey to the Holy
“But before we go our severed roads, I would give unto you
the harvest and the gleaning of my heart:
“Go you upon your way with singing, but let each song be
brief, for only the songs that die young upon your lips shall live
in human hearts.
“Tell a lovely truth in little words, but never an ugly truth
in any words. Tell the maiden whose hair shines in the sun that she
is the daughter of the morning. But if you shall behold the
sightless, say not to him that he is one with night.
“Listen to the flute-player as it were listening to April,
but if you shall hear the critic and the fault-finder speak, be
deaf as your own bones and as distant as your fancy.
“My comrades and my beloved, upon your way you shall meet men
with hoofs; give them your wings. And men with horns; give them
wreaths of laurel. And men with claws; give them petals for
fingers. And men with forked tongues; give them honey words.
“Ay, you shall meet all these and more; you shall meet the
lame selling crutches; and the blind, mirrors. And you shall meet
the rich men begging at the gate of the Temple.
“To the lame give your swiftness, to the blind of your
vision; and see that you give of yourself to the rich beggars; they
are the most needy of all, for surely no man would stretch a hand
for alms unless he be poor indeed, though of great possessions.
“My comrades and my friends, I charge you by our love that
you be countless paths which cross one another in the desert, where
the lions and the rabbits walk, and also the wolves and the
“And remember this of me: I teach you not giving, but
receiving; not denial, but fulfilment; and not yielding, but
understanding, with the smile upon the lips.
“I teach you not silence, but rather a song not
“I teach you your larger self, which contains all
And he rose from the board and went out straightway into the Garden
and walked under the shadow of the cypress-trees as the day waned.
And they followed him, at a little distance, for their heart was
heavy, and their tongue clave to the roof of their mouth.
Only Karima, after she had put by the fragments, came unto him and
said: “Master, I would that you suffer me to prepare food
against the morrow and your journey.”
And he looked upon her with eyes that saw other worlds that this,
and he said: “My sister, and my beloved, it is done, even
from the beginning of time. The food and the drink is ready, for
the morrow, even as for our yesterday and our today.
“I go, but if I go with a truth not yet voiced, that very
truth will again seek me and gather me, though my elements be
scattered throughout the silences of eternity, and again shall I
come before you that I may speak with a voice born anew out of the
heart of those boundless silences.
“And if there be aught of beauty that I have declared not
unto you, then once again shall I be called, ay, even by mine own
name, Almustafa, and I shall give you a sign, that you may know I
have come back to speak all that is lacking, for God will not
suffer Himself to be hidden from man, nor His word to lie covered
in the abyss of the heart of man.
“I shall live beyond death, and I shall sing in your ears
Even after the vast sea-wave carries me back
To the vast sea-depth.
I shall sit at your board though without a body,
And I shall go with you to your fields, a spirit invisible.
I shall come to you at your fireside, a guest unseen.
Death changes nothing but the masks that cover our faces.
The woodsman shall be still a woodsman,
The ploughman, a ploughman,
And he who sang his song to the wind shall sing it also to the
And the disciples were as still as stones, and grieved in their
heart for that he had said: “I go.” But no man put out
his hand to stay the Master, nor did any follow after his
And Almustafa went out from the Garden of his mother, and his feet
were swift and they were soundless; and in a moment, like a blown
leaf in a strong wind, he was far gone from them, and they saw, as
it were, a pale light moving up to the heights.
And the nine walked their ways down the road. But the woman still
stood in the gathering night, and she beheld how the light and the
twilight were become one; and she comforted her desolation and her
aloneness with his words: “I go, but if I go with a truth not
yet voiced, that very truth will seek me and gather me, and again
shall I come.”
AND now it was
And he had reached the hills. His steps had led him to the mist,
and he stood among the rocks and the white cypress-trees hidden
from all things, and he spoke and said:
“O Mist, my sister, white breath not yet held in a mould,
I return to you, a breath white and voiceless,
A word not yet uttered.
“O Mist, my winged sister mist, we are together now,
And together we shall be till life’s second day,
Whose dawn shall lay you, dewdrops in a garden,
And me a babe upon the breast of a woman,
And we shall remember.
“O Mist, my sister, I come back, a heart listening in its
Even as your heart,
A desire throbbing and aimless even as your desire,
A thought not yet gathered, even as your thought.
“O Mist, my sister, first-born of my mother,
My hands still hold the green seeds you bade me scatter,
And my lips are sealed upon the song you bade me sing;
And I bring you no fruit, and I bring you no echoes
For my hands were blind, and my lips unyielding.
“O Mist, my sister, much did I love the world, and the world
For all my smiles were upon her lips, and all her tears were in my
Yet there was between us a gulf of silence which she would not
And I could not overstep.
“O Mist, my sister, my deathless sister Mist,
I sang the ancient songs unto my little children,
And they listened, and there was wondering upon their face;
But tomorrow perchance they will forget the song,
And I know not to whom the wind will carry the song.
And though it was not mine own, yet it came to my heart
And dwelt for a moment upon my lips.
“O Mist, my sister, though all this came to pass,
I am at peace.
It was enough to sing to those already born.
And though the singing is indeed not mine,
Yet it is of my heart’s deepest desire.
“O Mist, my sister, my sister Mist,
I am one with you now.
No longer am I a self.
The walls have fallen,
And the chains have broken;
I rise to you, a mist,
And together we shall float upon the sea until life’s second
When dawn shall lay you, dewdrops in a garden,
And me a babe upon the breast of a woman.”
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