'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran (1923)

A selection from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, 1923.

Kahlil Gibran came from Bsharri, a small town in what was then the Ottoman Empire but which is now part of Lebanon, and which is home to the last vestiges of the Forest of the Cedars of Lebanon which were used by the Egyptians, Phoneticians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and others for ship building. Gibran moved to the U.S as a young man, where he wrote in English and Arabic. He was 40 years old when he finished The Prophet. Gibran instructed that the royalties and copyrights to his materials be owned by his hometown Bsharri after his death. 

In your aloneness you have watched with our days, and in your wakefulness you have listened to the weeping and the laughter of our sleep.
Now therefore disclose us to ourselves, and tell us all that has been shown you... .
And he answered:
People of Orphalese, of what can I speak save of that which is even now moving within your souls?
Then Said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
... And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
... to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
Then Almitra spoke again and said,
"And what of Marriage, master?"
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children."
And he said:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, "Speak to us of Eating and Drinking." And he said:
Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light. But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother's milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,
And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man. When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,
"By the same power that slays you, I to am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand. Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven."
And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,
"Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons."
And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyard for the winepress, say in you heart,
"I to am a vinyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels."
And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup; And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.