"On Beauty" (excerpt from THE PROPHET) by Kahlil Gibran
Filed in: Kahlil Gibran
—Portrait of an Old Lake Captain, c. 1906 by Tom Thomson
Where shall you seek beauty,
and how shall you find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?
The aggrieved and the injured say, "Beauty is kind and gentle.
Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us."
And the passionate say, "Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us."
The tired and the weary say, "Beauty is of soft whisperings.
She speaks in our spirit.
Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow."
But the restless say, "We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
And with her cries came the sound of hoofs,
and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions."
At night the watchmen of the city say, "Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east."
And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say,
"We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset."
In winter say the snow-bound, "She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills."
And in the summer heat the reapers say,
"We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves,
and we saw a drift of snow in her hair."
All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.