The Farewell by Kahlil Gibran

The Farewell

AND now it was evening.

And Almitra the seeress said, Blessed be

this day and this place and your spirit that

has spoken.

And he answered, Was it I who spoke?

Was I not also a listener?

Then he descended the steps of the Tem-

ple and all the people followed him. And he

reached his ship and stood upon the deck.

And facing the people again, he raised his

voice and said:

People of Orphalese, the wind bids me

leave you.

Less hasty am I than the wind, yet I

must go.

We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier

way, begin no day where we have ended

another day; and no sunrise finds us where

sunset left us.

Even while the earth sleeps we travel.

We are the seeds of the tenacious plant,

and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of

heart that we are given to the wind and are

scattered.

Brief were my days among you, and

briefer still the words I have spoken.

But should my voice fade in your ears,

and my love vanish in your memory, then

I will come again,

And with a richer heart and lips more

yielding to the spirit will I speak.

Yea, I shall return with the tide,

And though death may hide me, and the

greater silence enfold me, yet again will I

seek your understanding.

And not in vain will I seek.

If aught I have said is truth, that truth

shall reveal itself in a clearer voice, and in

words more kin to your thoughts.

I go with the wind, people of Orphalese,

but not down into emptiness;

And if this day is not a fulfillment of

your needs and my love, then let it be a

promise till another day.

Man’s needs change, but not his love, nor

his desire that his love should satisfy his

needs.

Know therefore, that from the greater si-

lence I shall return.

The mist that drifts away at dawn, leaving

but dew in the fields, shall rise and gather

into a cloud and then fall down in rain.

And not unlike the mist have I been.

In the stillness of the night I have walked

in your streets, and my spirit has entered

your houses,

And your heart-beats were in my heart,

and your breath was upon my face, and I

knew you all.

Ay, I knew your joy and your pain, and

in your sleep your dreams were my dreams.

And oftentimes I was among you a lake

among the mountains.

I mirrored the summits in you and the

bending slopes, and even the passing flocks

of your thoughts and your desires.

And to my silence came the laughter of

your children in streams, and the longing of

your youths in rivers.

And when they reached my depth the

streams and the rivers ceased not yet to

sing.

But sweeter still than laughter and greater

than longing came to me.

It was boundless in you;

The vast man in whom you are all but

cells and sinews;

He in whose chant all your singing is but

a soundless throbbing.

It is in the vast man that you are vast,

And in beholding him that I beheld you

and loved you.

For what distances can love reach that are

not in that vast sphere?

What visions, what expectations and what

presumptions can outsoar that flight?

Like a giant oak tree covered with apple

blossoms is the vast man in you.

His might binds you to the earth, his

fragrance lifts you into space, and in his

durability you are deathless.

You have been told that, even like a chain,

you are as weak as your weakest link.

This is but half the truth. You are also

as strong as your strongest link.

To measure you by your smallest deed is

to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty

of its foam.

To judge you by your failures is to cast

blame upon the seasons for their inconsistency.

Ay, you are like an ocean,

And though heavy-grounded ships await

the tide upon your shores, yet, even like an

ocean, you cannot hasten your tides.

And like the seasons you are also,

And though in your winter you deny

your spring,

Yet spring, reposing within you, smiles in

her drowsiness and is not offended.

Think not I say these things in order

that you may say the one to the other, “He

praised us well. He saw but the good in

us.”

I only speak to you in words of that

which you yourselves know in thought.

And what is word knowledge but a

shadow of wordless knowledge?

Your thoughts and my words are waves

from a sealed memory that keeps records of

our yesterdays,

And of the ancient days when the earth

knew not us nor herself,

And of nights when earth was upwrought

with confusion.

Wise men have come to you to give you

of their wisdom. I came to take of your

wisdom:

And behold I have found that which is

greater than wisdom.

It is a flame spirit in you ever gathering

more of itself,

While you, heedless of its expansion, be-

wail the withering of your days.

It is life in quest of life in bodies that fear

the grave.

There are no graves here.

These mountains and plains are a cradle

and a stepping-stone.

Whenever you pass by the field where you

have laid your ancestors look well there-

upon, and you shall see yourselves and your

children dancing hand in hand.

Verily you often make merry without

knowing.

Others have come to you to whom for

golden promises made unto your faith you

have given but riches and power and glory.

Less than a promise have I given, and yet

more generous have you been to me.

You have given me deeper thirsting after life.

Surely there is no greater gift to a man

than that which turns all his aims into

parching lips and all life into a fountain.

And in this lies my honour and my re-

ward, —

That whenever I come to the fountain to

drink I find the living water itself thirsty;

And it drinks me while I drink it.

Some of you have deemed me proud and

over-shy to receive gifts.

To proud indeed am I to receive wages,

but not gifts.

And though I have eaten berries among

the hill when you would have had me sit

at your board,

And slept in the portico of the temple

where you would gladly have sheltered

me,

Yet was it not your loving mindfulness

of my days and my nights that made food

sweet to my mouth and girdled my sleep

with visions?

For this I bless you most:

You give much and know not that you

give at all.

Verily the kindness that gazes upon it-

self in a mirror turns to stone,

And a good deed that calls itself by ten-

der names becomes the parent to a curse.

And some of you have called me aloof,

and drunk with my own aloneness,

And you have said, “He holds council with

the trees of the forest, but not with men.

He sits alone on hill-tops and looks down

upon our city.”

True it is that I have climbed the hills

and walked in remote places.

How could I have seen you save from a

great height or a great distance?

How can one be indeed near unless he

be far?

And others among you called unto me,

not in words, and they said,

“Stranger, stranger, lover of unreachable

heights, why dwell you among the summits

where eagles build their nests?

Why seek you the unattainable?

What storms would you trap in your net,

And what vaporous birds do you hunt in

the sky?

Come and be one of us.

Descend and appease your hunger with

our bread and quench your thirst with our

wine.”

In the solitude of their souls they said

these things;

But were their solitude deeper they would

have known that I sought but the secret of

your joy and your pain,

And I hunted only your larger selves

that walk the sky.

But the hunter was also the hunted;

For many of my arrows left my bow only

to seek my own breast.

And the flier was also the creeper;

For when my wings were spread in the sun

their shadow upon the earth was a turtle.

And I the believer was also the doubter;

For often have I put my finger in my own

wound that I might have the greater belief in

you and the greater knowledge of you.

And it is with this belief and this knowl-

edge that I say,

You are not enclosed within your bodies,

nor confined to houses or fields.

That which is you dwells above the

mountain and roves with the wind.

It is not a thing that crawls into the sun

for warmth or digs holes into darkness for

safety,

But a thing free, a spirit that envelops the

earth and moves in the ether.

If this be vague words, then seek not to

clear them.

Vague and nebulous is the beginning of

all things, but not their end,

And I fain would have you remember me

as a beginning.

Life, and all that lives, is conceived in the

mist and not in the crystal.

And who knows but a crystal is mist in

decay?

This would I have you remember in re-

membering me:

That which seems most feeble and be-

wildered in you is the strongest and most

determined.

Is it not your breath that has erected and

hardened the structure of your bones?

And is it not a dream which none of you

remember having dreamt that building your

city and fashioned all there is in it?

Could you but see the tides of that breath

you would cease to see all else,

And if you could hear the whispering of

the dream you would hear no other sound.

But you do not see, nor do you hear, and

it is well.

The veil that clouds your eyes shall be

lifted by the hands that wove it,

And the clay that fills your ears shall be

pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.

And you shall see

And you shall hear.

Yet you shall not deplore having known

blindness, nor regret having been deaf.

For in that day you shall know the hidden

purposes in all things,

And you shall bless darkness as you

would bless light.

After saying these things he looked about

him, and he saw the pilot of his ship stand-

ing by the helm and gazing now at the full

sails and now at the distance.

And he said:

Patient, over-patient, is the captain of my

ship.

The wind blows, and restless are the sails;

Even the rudder begs direction;

Yet quietly my captain awaits my silence.

And these my mariners, who have heard

the choir of the greater sea, they too have

heard me patiently.

Now they shall wait no longer.

I am ready.

The stream has reached the sea, and

once more the great mother holds her son

against her breast.

Fare you well, people of Orphalese.

This day has ended.

It is closing upon us even as the water

-lily upon its own tomorrow.

What was given us here we shall keep,

And if it suffices not, then again must we

come together and together stretch our hands

unto the giver.

Forget not that I shall come back to you.

A little while, and my longing shall gather

dust and foam for another body.

A little while, a moment of rest upon the

wind, and another woman shall bear me.

Farewell to you and the youth I have

spent with you.

It was but yesterday we met in a dream.

You have sung to me in my aloneness,

and I of your longings have built a tower

in the sky.

But now our sleep has fled and our dream

is over, and it is no longer dawn.

The noontide is upon us and our half

waking has turned to fuller day, and we

must part.

If in the twilight of memory we should

meet once more, we shall speak again to-

gether and you shall sing to me a deeper

song.

And if our hands should meet in another

dream, we shall build another tower in the

sky.

So saying he made a signal to the seamen,

and straightaway they weighed anchor and

cast the ship loose from its moorings, and

they moved eastward.

And a cry came from the people as from

a single heart, and it rose the dusk and

was carried out over the sea like a great

trumpeting.

Only Almitra was silent, gazing after the

ship until it had vanished into the mist.

And when all the people were dispersed

she still stood alone upon the sea-wall, re-

membering in her heart his saying,

“A little while, a moment of rest upon the

wind, and another woman shall bear me.”

-excerpt from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran.

THE END

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