Khalil Gibran

Born: January 6, 1883 in Bsharri, Lebanon

Died: April 10, 1931 in New York City, United States

Occupation: Poet, visual artist

Nationality: Lebanese, American

 

Khalil Gibran (also known as Kahlil Gibran; born Gibran Khalil Gibran, (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931) was an artist, poet and writer. He was born in Lebanon and spent much of his productive life in the United States.

 

Youth in Lebanon

According to his relative of the same name, the Gibran family’s origins are obscure. Though his mother was the “offspring of a priestly, and important family”, the Gibran clan was “small and undistinguished.” He was born in the Maronite town of Bsharri in northern what, today is called, Lebanon – part of the Ottoman Empire, and grew up in the region of Bsharri. His maternal Grandfather was a Maronite Catholic priest.

 

As a result of his family’s poverty, Gibran did not receive any formal schooling during his youth in Lebanon. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible, as well as the Syriac and Arabic languages. During these early days, Gibran began developing ideas that would later form some of his major work. In particular, he conceived of The Prophet at this time.

 

After Gibran’s father went to prison for fraud and tax evasion, Ottoman authorities confiscated his family’s property. Authorities released Gibran’s father in 1894, but the family had by then lost their home. Gibran’s mother, Kamilah, decided to follow Gibran’s uncle and emigrate to the United States. Gibran’s father chose to remain in Lebanon. Gibran’s mother, along with Khalil, his younger sisters Mariana and Sultana, and his half-brother Peter (a.k.a Butros) left for New York on June 25, 1895.

 

Youth in America

At the time the second largest Lebanese-American community was in Boston’s South End, so the Gibrans decided to settle there. His mother began working as a peddler to bring in money for the family, and Gibran started school on September 30, 1895. Since he had no formal schooling in Lebanon, school officials placed him in a special class for immigrants to learned English. Gibran’s English teacher suggested that he Anglicise the spelling of his name in order to make it more acceptable to American society. Kahlil Gibran was the result.

 

In his early teens, the artistry of Gibran’s drawings caught the eye of his teachers and he was introduced to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day, who encouraged and supported Gibran in his creative endeavors.

 

Art and Poetry

A publisher used some of Gibran’s drawing for book covers in 1898, and Gibran held his first art exhibition in 1904 in Boston. During his exhibition, Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship that lasted the rest of Gibran’s life. Haskell influenced not only Gibran’s personal life, but also his career. In 1908, Gibran went to study art with Auguste Rodin in Paris for two years. This is where he met his art study partner and lifelong friend Youssef Howayek. He later studied art in Boston.

 

While most of Gibran’s early writing was in Arabic, most of his work published after 1918 was in English. Gibran also took part in the New York Pen League, also known as Al-Mahjar (“immigrant poets”), alongside other important Lebanese American authors Ameen Rihani (“the father of Lebanese American literature”), Mikhail Naimy and Elia Abu Madi.

 

His poetry is notable for its use of formal language, as well as insights on topics of life using spiritual terms.

 

Gibran’s best-known work is The Prophet, a book composed of 26 poetic essays. During the 1960s, The Prophet remains famous to this day, with passages often read at weddings and christenings.

 

One of his most famous lines of poetry in the English speaking world is from Sand and Foam (1926), which reads: ‘Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you.’ This was taken by John Lennon and placed, though in a slightly altered form, into the song Julia from The Beatles’ 1968 album The Beatles (a.k.a The White Album).

 

Gibran’s most famous line of all is that which inspired John F. Kennedy’s oft quoted “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You,” from his 1961 inaugural address. The quotewas inspired by a 1925 article, The New Frontier, in which Gibran wrote: “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.”

 

Death and Legacy

Gibran died in New York City on April 10, 1931: the cause was determined to cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis. Before his death, Gibran expressed the wish that he be buried in Lebanon. This wish was fulfilled in 1932, when Mary Haskell and his sister Mariana purchased the Mar Sarkis Monastery in Lebanon. Gibran remains the most popular Lebanese-American writer ever.

 

Selected Works

  • Ara’is al-Muruj (Nymphs of the Valley, also translated as Spirit Brides, 1906)
  • al-Arwah al-Mutamarrida (Spirits Rebellious, 1908)
  • al-Ajniha al-Mutakassira (Broken Wings, 1912)
  • Dam’a wa Ibtisama (A Tear and A Smile, 1914)
  • The Madman (1918)
  • Al-Mawakib (The Processions, 1919)
  • Al-Awasif (The Tempests, 1920)
  • The Forerunner (1920)
  • al-Bada’I’ waal-Tara’if (The New and the Marvellous, 1923)
  • The Prophet, (1923)
  • Sand and Foam (1926)
  • The Son of Man (1928)
  • The Earth Gods (1929)
  • The Wanderer (1932)
  • The Garden of The Prophet (1933)

 

Trivia

  • Khalil Gibran is referenced briefly in the episode Wingmen of the show The Boondocks. When Huey (the central character) is asked by his grandfather to say something “deep”, he recites part of the poem On Pain and The Prophet.
  • The Prophet is seen in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line when June Carter hands it to J.R to read in the motel.
  • In the popular video game Deus Ex, one of the three possible ending quotes is Gibran’s quote: “Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth…” The western spelling of his name, Kahlil Gibran, was used to credit him.
  • Jackie Mclean’s Kahlil the Prophet is on Destination…Out! (1963) (Blue Note BLP 4165)
  • Jason Mraz’s song God Moves Through You on the album Selections For Friends features words from the poem The Prophet.
  • The lyrics to David Bowie’s The Width of a Circle, off his album The Man Who Stole the World (1970), relates a surrealist scene in which the narrator and his doppelganger seek the help of black-bird, who just “laughed isance and quipped ‘Kahlil Gibran’”.

 

References

Gibran, Kahlil. Kahlil Gibran:

His Life and Works.

This article is excerpted from

The Wikipedia entry.

 

 

Born: January 6, 1883 in Bsharri, Lebanon
Died: April 10, 1931 in New York City, United States
Occupation: Poet, visual artist
Nationality: Lebanese, American

Khalil Gibran (also known as Kahlil Gibran; born Gibran Khalil Gibran, (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931) was an artist, poet and writer. He was born in Lebanon and spent much of his productive life in the United States.

Youth in Lebanon

According to his relative of the same name, the Gibran family’s origins are obscure. Though his mother was the “offspring of a priestly, and important family”, the Gibran clan was “small and undistinguished.” He was born in the Maronite town of Bsharri in northern what, today is called, Lebanon – part of the Ottoman Empire, and grew up in the region of Bsharri. His maternal Grandfather was a Maronite Catholic priest.

As a result of his family’s poverty, Gibran did not receive any formal schooling during his youth in Lebanon. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible, as well as the Syriac and Arabic languages. During these early days, Gibran began developing ideas that would later form some of his major work. In particular, he conceived of The Prophet at this time.

After Gibran’s father went to prison for fraud and tax evasion, Ottoman authorities confiscated his family’s property. Authorities released Gibran’s father in 1894, but the family had by then lost their home. Gibran’s mother, Kamilah, decided to follow Gibran’s uncle and emigrate to the United States. Gibran’s father chose to remain in Lebanon. Gibran’s mother, along with Khalil, his younger sisters Mariana and Sultana, and his half-brother Peter (a.k.a Butros) left for New York on June 25, 1895.

Youth in America
At the time the second largest Lebanese-American community was in Boston’s South End, so the Gibrans decided to settle there. His mother began working as a peddler to bring in money for the family, and Gibran started school on September 30, 1895. Since he had no formal schooling in Lebanon, school officials placed him in a special class for immigrants to learned English. Gibran’s English teacher suggested that he Anglicise the spelling of his name in order to make it more acceptable to American society. Kahlil Gibran was the result.

In his early teens, the artistry of Gibran’s drawings caught the eye of his teachers and he was introduced to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day, who encouraged and supported Gibran in his creative endeavors.

Art and Poetry
A publisher used some of Gibran’s drawing for book covers in 1898, and Gibran held his first art exhibition in 1904 in Boston. During his exhibition, Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship that lasted the rest of Gibran’s life. Haskell influenced not only Gibran’s personal life, but also his career. In 1908, Gibran went to study art with Auguste Rodin in Paris for two years. This is where he met his art study partner and lifelong friend Youssef Howayek. He later studied art in Boston.

While most of Gibran’s early writing was in Arabic, most of his work published after 1918 was in English. Gibran also took part in the New York Pen League, also known as Al-Mahjar (“immigrant poets”), alongside other important Lebanese American authors Ameen Rihani (“the father of Lebanese American literature”), Mikhail Naimy and Elia Abu Madi.

His poetry is notable for its use of formal language, as well as insights on topics of life using spiritual terms.

Gibran’s best-known work is The Prophet, a book composed of 26 poetic essays. During the 1960s, The Prophet remains famous to this day, with passages often read at weddings and christenings.

One of his most famous lines of poetry in the English speaking world is from Sand and Foam (1926), which reads: ‘Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you.’ This was taken by John Lennon and placed, though in a slightly altered form, into the song Julia from The Beatles’ 1968 album The Beatles (a.k.a The White Album).

Gibran’s most famous line of all is that which inspired John F. Kennedy’s oft quoted “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You,” from his 1961 inaugural address. The quotewas inspired by a 1925 article, The New Frontier, in which Gibran wrote: “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.”

Death and Legacy
Gibran died in New York City on April 10, 1931: the cause was determined to cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis. Before his death, Gibran expressed the wish that he be buried in Lebanon. This wish was fulfilled in 1932, when Mary Haskell and his sister Mariana purchased the Mar Sarkis Monastery in Lebanon. Gibran remains the most popular Lebanese-American writer ever.

Selected Works
Ara’is al-Muruj (Nymphs of the Valley, also translated as Spirit Brides, 1906)
al-Arwah al-Mutamarrida (Spirits Rebellious, 1908)
al-Ajniha al-Mutakassira (Broken Wings, 1912)
Dam’a wa Ibtisama (A Tear and A Smile, 1914)
The Madman (1918)
Al-Mawakib (The Processions, 1919)
Al-Awasif (The Tempests, 1920)
The Forerunner (1920)
al-Bada’I’ waal-Tara’if (The New and the Marvellous, 1923)
The Prophet, (1923)
Sand and Foam (1926)
The Son of Man (1928)
The Earth Gods (1929)
The Wanderer (1932)
The Garden of The Prophet (1933)

Trivia
Khalil Gibran is referenced briefly in the episode Wingmen of the show The Boondocks. When Huey (the central character) is asked by his grandfather to say something “deep”, he recites part of the poem On Pain and The Prophet.
The Prophet is seen in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line when June Carter hands it to J.R to read in the motel.
In the popular video game Deus Ex, one of the three possible ending quotes is Gibran’s quote: “Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth…” The western spelling of his name, Kahlil Gibran, was used to credit him.
Jackie Mclean’s Kahlil the Prophet is on Destination…Out! (1963) (Blue Note BLP 4165)
Jason Mraz’s song God Moves Through You on the album Selections For Friends features words from the poem The Prophet.
The lyrics to David Bowie’s The Width of a Circle, off his album The Man Who Stole the World (1970), relates a surrealist scene in which the narrator and his doppelganger seek the help of black-bird, who just “laughed isance and quipped ‘Kahlil Gibran’”.

References
Gibran, Kahlil. Kahlil Gibran:
His Life and Works.
This article is excerpted from
The Wikipedia entry.