I absolutely adored this book about love. It is a poignant story, about a love felt between two people who cannot be together for circumstances in their social milieu, but who feel each other in a spiritual and loving way. It is the story of his first love and is anchored in sorrow about what could not have been. It is one that ends in tragedy.
What I enjoyed most about the book is the incredible writing, the words, how Gibran turns prose into poetry and speaks with metaphor in a way that carries emotion in ways one rarely sees.
It is also a short book, easy to devour in one sitting. It brought me to tears. Perhaps it will do the same for you. Few books have the power to move through the poetry of language. This is one.
“Every visit gave me a new meaning to her beauty and a new insight into her sweet spirit, until she became a book whose pages I could understand and whose praises I could sing, but which I could never finish reading. A woman whom Providence has provided with beauty of spirit and body is a truth, at the same time both open and secret, which we can understand only by love, and touch only by virtue; and when we attempt to describe such a woman she disappears like a vapor.”
Her beauty was like a gift of poetry. But poets are unhappy people, for, no matter how high their spirits reach, they will still be enclosed in an envelope of tears…
[She] was deeply thoughtful rather than talkative, and her silence was a kind of music that carried one to a world of dreams and made him listen to the throbbing of his heart, and see the ghosts of his thoughts and feelings standing before him, looking him in the eyes.
She wore a cloak of deep sorrow through her life, which increased her strange beauty and dignity, as a tree in blossom is more lovely when seen through the mist of dawn.”
This book also resonated for me because of the “Broken Wings” a term that I have used to describe my own feelings about gender. My broken wings are a desperate love of motherhood, something I will never taste, but one which fills me with boundless love and joy.
“The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word ‘Mother’, and the most beautiful call is the call of ‘My mother.’ It is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart. The mother is everything—she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly.
Every thing in nature bespeaks the mother. The sun is the mother of earth and gives it its nourishment of heat; it never leaves the universe at night until it has put the earth to sleep to the song of the sea and to the hymn of birds and brooks. And this earth is the mother of trees and flowers. It produces them, nurses them, and weans them. The trees and flowers become kind mothers of their great fruits and seeds. And the mother, the prototype of all existence, is the eternal spirit, full of beauty and love.
The word mother is hidden in our hearts, and it comes upon our lips. In hours of sorrow and happiness as the perfume comes from the heart of the rose and mingles with clear and cloudy air.”
It is a sad and poignant book too.
“He was born like a thought and died like a sigh and disappeared like a shadow.”
Sacrifice or Rebellion
“I have thought about the spiritual law which made her prefer death to life, and many a time I have made a comparison between nobility of sacrifice and happiness of rebellion to find out which one is nobler and more beautiful; but until now I have distilled only one truth out of the whole matter, and this truth is sincerity, which makes all our deeds beautiful and honourable.”
The central message of the book is Shakespearian: it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Gibran is telling us that pain and sorrow, as counterpoints to love, amplify the feelings of love we have. This is the story of my life.
Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) was a Lebanese writer who emigrated to the US. He is most known for his work The Prophet.