The Prophet

by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet offers wisdom on 26 topics—about three pages on each. Gibran writes in poetic prose with a liberal use of archaic words, presumably to sound biblical. Some of the meaning is immediately clear, while other parts require some reflection to decipher the deeper meaning.

On Work. The author stresses the importance of finding work you enjoy. “For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.”

On Marriage. Gibran observes that marriage is a union between individuals, not a merger. “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you… The oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

On Reason and Passion. “Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.”

On Crime and Punishment. Gibran ponders the purpose of sentencing. “And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?” In the next line, I think he is saying that the integrity of the criminal justice system is no greater than its least ethical official:  “The corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.”

On Clothes. “Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful… Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment, for the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind… And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” I think Gibran is commenting on authenticity versus posturing. Either that or he was a nudist.

the-prophet-p8On Freedom. “You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound… And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.”

On Self-Knowledge. “Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’”

On Friendship. “And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught… And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

Other topics include love, children, giving, eating and drinking, joy and sorrow, houses, buying and selling, laws, pain, teaching, speaking and talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

Some of the obscure vocabulary used in the book are: alms (donation), aught (anything), bower (cottage), eventide (evening), fain (gladly), fetter (shackle), naught (nothing), raiment (clothing), tarry (linger), thither (toward that place), upwrought (agitated), and verily (truly).

The Prophet was originally published in 1923. This edition includes 12 drawings by the author.

Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet. New York: Vintage Books, 2015. Buy from

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