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Poetry · Words Written

Selections From Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran

I AM for ever walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam.
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
For ever.

                                *

    Once I filled my hand with mist.
    Then I opened it and lo, the mist was a
worm.
    And I closed and opened my hand again,
and behold there was a bird.
    And again I closed and opened my hand,
and in its hollow stood a man with a sad face,
turned upward.
    And again I closed my hand, and when I
opened it there was naught but mist.
    But I heard a song of exceeding sweetness.

                                *

    When God threw me, a pebble, into this
wondrous lake I disturbed its surface with
countless circles.
    But when I reached the depths I became
very still.

                                *

    We measure time according to the move-
ment of countless suns; and they measure time
by little machines in their little pockets.
    Now tell me, how could we ever meet at the
same place and the same time?

                                *

    My house says to me, “Do not leave me,
for here dwells your past.”
    And the road says to me, “Come and follow
me, for I am your future.”
    And I say to both my house and the road,
“I have no past, nor have I a future. If I stay
here, there is a going in my staying; and if I go
there is a staying in my going. Only love and
death change all things.”

                                *

    How can I lose faith in the justice of life,
when the dreams of those who sleep upon
feathers are not more beautiful than the
dreams of those who sleep upon the earth?

                                *

    Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We
see truth through it, but it divides us from
truth.

                                *

    If your heart is a volcano how shall you
expect flowers to bloom in your hands?

                                *

    How often have I attributed to myself
crimes I have never committed, so that the
other person may feel comfortable in my
presence.

                                *

    When you see a man led to prison, say in
your heart, “Mayhap he is escaping from a
narrower prison.”
    And when you see a man drunken, say in
your heart, “Mayhap he sought escape from
something still more unbeautiful.”

                                *

    Your saying to me, “I do not understand
you,” is praise beyond my worth, and an
insult you do not deserve.

                                *

    How mean am I when life gives me gold
and I give you silver, and yet I deem myself
generous.

                                *

    If the other person laughs at you, you can
pity him; but if you laugh at him you may
never forgive yourself.
    If the other person injures you, you may
forget the injury; but if you injure him you
will always remember.
    In truth the other person is your most
sensitive self given another body.

                                *

    The highest virtue here may be the least in
another world.

                                *

    If indeed you must be candid, be candid
beautifully; otherwise keep silent, for there is
a man in our neighbourhood who is dying.

                                *

    In truth we talk only to ourselves, but some-
times we talk loud enough that others may
hear us.

                                *

    Perhaps the sea’s definition of a shell is the
pearl.
    Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the
diamond.

                                *

    I am the flame and I am the dry brush, and
one part of me consumes the other part.
                                *

    We are all seeking the summit of the holy
mountain; but shall not our road be shorter
if we consider the past a chart and not a guide?

                                *

    When you reach the end of what you should
know, you will be at the beginning of what
you should sense.

                                *

    A traveler am I and a navigator, and every
day I discover a new region within my soul.

                                *

    There lies a green field between the scholar
and the poet; should the scholar cross it, he
becomes a wise man; should the poet cross it,
he becomes a prophet.

                                *

    Once a man sat at my board and ate my
bread and drank my wine and went away
laughing at me.
    Then he came again for bread and wine,
and I spurned him;
    And the angels laughed at me.

                                *

    They deem me mad because I will not sell
my days for gold;
    And I deem them mad because they think
my days have a price.

                                *

    Once I spoke of the sea to a brook, and
the brook thought me but an imaginative
exaggerator;
    And once I spoke of a brook to the sea,
and the sea thought me but a depreciative
defamer.

                                *

    How narrow is the vision that exalts the
busyness of the ant above the singing of the
grasshopper.

                                *

    In truth we talk only to ourselves, but some-
times we talk loud enough that others may
hear us.

                                *

    If the Milky Way were not within me, how
should I have seen it or known it?

                                *

    When I stood a clear mirror before you, you
gazed into me, and saw your image.
    Then you said, “I love you.”
    But in truth you loved yourself in me.

                                *

    In the autumn I gathered all my sorrows and
buried them in my garden.
    And when April returned and spring came
to wed the earth, there grew in my garden
beautiful flowers unlike all other flowers.
    And my neighbours came to behold them,
and they all said to me, “When autumn comes
again, at seeding time, will you not give us of
the seeds of these flowers that we may have
them in our gardens?”

                                *

    Art is a step from nature toward the
Infinite.

                                *

A work of art is a mist carved into an image.

                                *

    Even the hands that make crowns of thorns
are better than idle hands.

                                *

    You may have heard of the Blessed
Mountain
    It is the highest mountain in our world.
    Should you reach the summit you would
have only one desire, and that is to descend and
be with those who dwell in the deepest valley.
    That is why it is called the Blessed
Mountain.

From Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926). These poems are in the public domain.