Feature Kahlil Gibran Poetry

Read more poems by Kahlil Gibran translated into English.

Kahlil Gibran Poetry

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 levelled 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 Sufi
translated by Andrew Ghareeb

To God the praise be,
Neither gold nor silver
Have we.
No movable 
And immovable property. 
Yoke-companion none. 
Nor offspring. 
And without lineage. 
Through the earth 
Which stretches wide, 
As a phantom we traverse 
Whom no one can perceive 
Save in whose twin orbs 
The phantom hides. 
If we laugh, 
Distress lurks in Time,
And if we weep 
Behind it joy lies. 
We are but a spirit! 
Should you say to us: 
“How wondrous!” 
Then forthright we reply: 
“By heaven! 
Wonder dwells 
In your own 
Veil of clay.”

Love

They say the jackal and the mole
Drink from the self-same 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

From "Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab American Poetry," edited by Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, 2000. Reprinted with permission of the editors.