Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Post 64. An interpretation of Khalil Gibran's Poem

Interpretation of " On Marriage" by Khalil Gibran.
( Dedicatd as homage to Miss Lyss.)
On Marriage.
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, 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.
An interpretation.
Since I have observed people to give different interpretations to this poem by Khalil Gibran, and upon this having been shown to me by a dear lady-blogger on Bigblog, in the occasion of my submision to her attention of my little rambling work “Of Bodies and Souls” (uploaded in the following Post)which reflects christian/Catholic theological and ethical sensibilities, moreover believing it concurs with some of the criteria in my work, I have decided, without claiming to be an expert of Gibran’s poetry, to attempt an Interpretation. Although not being an expert at poetry, I have done more than my share of readings in Italian Literature.First of all I do not think that the title-: “On Marriage” is applicable, as I believe the Poem to be about a great love experience between two human beings. Carnal union is not appearing at all in this Poem, and what is stressed is a correspondence between the two souls, what ancient italian poetry called “una corrispondenza di amorosi sensi”.
The only indication that the love may be between a man and a woman may be the use of the oak and cypress analogy in the metaphor at the last verse. Had the Souls of the two lovers been of persons of the same gender, Gibran should have used either "cypress" or "oak" for both according as to whether the two were respectively and both female or male. The latter case of two, non-carnally engaged male lovers could apply to a poem that sang the love David had for Saul's son, the tragic Jonatan.

"You" were born together.................

"You " refers to the love between the two souls which arises simultaneously in both lovers, like a love at first sight. "Soul", "love" and "heart" are one and the same thing in this Poem. The true love between two souls which endures eternally, is like a Friendship founded on character rather than on commonly described love which Aristotle distinguishes and defines in his chapters on Friendship in one of his works about Ethics, “Nichomachean Ethics”. He says of the one founded on love that it can be transitory as amply proved by our modern separations and divorces, while the one founded on character may endure forever.
Aristotle considered three types of Friendship-: Political ( any mercenary friendship based on utility and material/service exchange), from love (pleasure, mutual liking/physical attraction/mannerism), from character.
Gibran, although a Persian of indo-european origins, was a Moslem and since he obviously belonged to the learned circles of islamic scholars, one in which theology and philosophy were prerequisites for all types of higher learning, Gibran must have studied Aristotle who had been rediscovered by the Arabs in the course of their conquests since 650 A.D.
It is also obvious that Platonic influences were also strong in islamic learned circles, very much more so than Aristotle, who became, in a modified understanding contrasting the islamic/jewish one, the philosopher of the Catholic Scholastics, led by the Dominican, St. Thomas Aquina ( an italian/calabrian of noble german origins), called by his fellow parisian colleagues " the Sorbonne-ox ", owing to his humble, patient, unflippable, kind, slow, methodical, thorough, devastating reasoning and logic.
One had to wait for William of Oackam, Francis Bacon, and the dutch theologians/philosophers to have Aristotle's exhaggerated veneration to abate.
In Ethics though he still remains unsurpassed, as Situation Ethics ( although appropriate and true, if honestly applied, like when I say that there may sometime be a justification for a poke or even two) is a failure since human beings are naturally devoted to lying and false rationalisations,
to suit situations.

spaces in your togetherness.........................
the winds of the heavens dance between you........
a moving sea between the shores of your souls..............
stand together yet not too near together..............
the pillars of the temple stand apart.....................
the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow...........................

Since I have stressed the point that Gibran is talking about a love between Souls without necessarily implying----as we modern readers who are grossly biased in favour of carnal expressions of what we may call love, not always even of a straight type---- carnal unity that was then the prerogative of those who wished to procreate, or of those indulging in gross love-making, the above expressions from the Poem predicate a sharing rather than a mutual possession of one another ’s Souls.
Why so?
The answer is-:

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.................

This is what the Angel says in my Poem about God owning the Souls and that we are only allowed to borrow. these from God.
The hand of Life is simply The Creator (i.e., a maker uses one's own hands to make) of Life that can only be God the Father or God the Creator.
Heart is another word for Soul, its seat of affections and feelings.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts...........................

This is what the Angel said in my poem " Of Bodies and Souls"..

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping............................................

Let there be a communication, a mutual borrowing, an amorous exchange, but do not attempt to absolutely own, posses one another, as we as Souls belong to God.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls............................

Here above again the motive of free, open, unbounded communication between independent 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........................

Here above again the motive of “ A mutual exchange of love while remaining individual Souls, love being like a music made by strings that remain separate while playing together in time


At July 13, 2009 at 5:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are wrong
Gibran was Lebanese and a Christian. Your analysis based on his Islamic circles is totally inappropriate.

Research before you analyze and display your ignorance about the subject.

At July 13, 2009 at 6:57 PM , Blogger Templar said...

Very interesting comment. Thank you for the correction, however anonymity is not a praiseworthy trait in my judgment. People who like to hide have some reasons for it. To me, it is basically bad manners in spite of the general widespread acceptance by our democratic degenerated societies. Neither is a Parthian Shot to be praised, meaning that your comment is a general observation without substance as you did not care to show excatly how I wrongly commented on the author with an islamic key. On the contrary, I stresed my feelings ( admitting also at the beginning) my general ignorance about the author) that Khalil showed the influence of the greek philosophers, but also saying that the Arabs have been the original great interpreters of greek philosophy( getting lots of isuues wrong though, the poor sods). So, in spite of not having done the research ( i wads wooing dear Miss Lyss) I believe I have written something of value, lovingly. My writings are not meant to be scholarly dissertations, although I treat these seriously enough and try tpo put value into these. Can you the great critic show me anything you wrote about Khalil? Do you write at all or just criticise those who do, pouncing on them for error of detail ? I have lived in the Middle East for years and my family has been there for three generations. Do not tell me please or anyone else that Khalil Gibran, although maybe a Lebanese and a Christian, with an arabic or poersian name, was totally un-influenced by islamic culture! One cannot live anywhere in the Middle East among Moslems and remain unaffected. One would not be allowed to stay there. I was compelled to come to Australia from Libya in 1959 before the Gheddafi usurpation of power, for example, because they would not allow me to work there unless I became a Libyan. and if one did not get circ=umcised and embrace Islam one becomes a second rate citizen. Dont't give us bullshit about being a Chistian among Moslems.
Khalil poetry is more platonic, greek, than Christian. Yes Islam was also influenced by greek culture espoecially in the culinary arts. most arabic and turkish dishes/sweets are of greek origin. So, you do too some reserach.

At July 13, 2009 at 8:12 PM , Blogger Templar said...

Yes, I looked up Khalil's biography and found out that he was born in Lebanon in 1893 and migrated to the USA in 1895. His poetry and sensitivity really sound so ancient that he fooled me into believing him actually a persian ( in my judgment, he does write poetry in a persian manner and a platonic bias).
I do not think he was much into Christianity. His people the Maronite, like the Copts of Egypt, and the Jacobites, etc. betrayed the Byzantine Greeks/Romans anyway when the Moslems invaded Palestine in ca. 700 AD and therefore deserved any indignity the Moslems heaped onto them. Sorry!
But poetry is not my interest, although I have competed with Telstra's Bigblog's Poet Laureate David the gaseous bard, for the attention of the Blogsite's females, I must ashameddly admit, being an old man and a Theologian. However God created the females for our admiration and to God's own glory.
My error with Khalil is a minor one as I still believe I captured his essence and spirit, and that is what counts, not the various labels and accidents of a biography. Thank you for correcting me anyway. Please e-mail me and let us become friends. I do not bite or stoke people. Come on, be civilised as Khalil was. Why read him otherwise if in a hypocritical way?

At July 14, 2009 at 6:08 PM , Blogger Templar said...

O.K. Khalil is a Christian Lebanese who grew up in the USA. So what? I cannot see anything lebanese or american or particularly christian in the poetry I analysed. Who is a Lebanese I ask? The most mixed society in the Middle East. Basically a Lebanese is an Arab of some sort continually augmented from badouin stock from the desert (Laurence of Arabia in "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"), civilised by greek/french influence and culture. A lebanese may have a great deal of one of the many european bloods that werebrought to lebanon by the various invaders in history. A Lebanese feels arabic, speaks arabic, writes in arabic, thinks in arabic and I suspect is an islamic sympathiser since most christian sects in the Middle East are basicAlly pure Arianism and Mohammedanism ( Islamism is a nn ideology not a religion ) is Arianism at the bottom line, from the perspective of Christianity. Any other influence is a borrowing and a fake or a means to some political end. So, don't give me your bullshit whoever you are, anonymous. And do not say I am ignorant. Write something if you are capable and enlighten us on how and why "Marriage" is particularly 20th century, lebanese, american or christian. I bet you canniot. So shut up and apologise.


At July 14, 2009 at 9:35 PM , Blogger Templar said...

Anonymous, greetings!
As you see you started me thinking and this takes time as post 64 is far away in the past. since, as you are aware of I reached post 112.
I would like to finally comment that Khilal Gibran, like all true great geniuses transcends the accidents of his birth, and all tha is required to understand these geniuses is geniality ( I do not meaa one must be a genius only that one has to have soul, feeling, understanding, humanity). On the basis of this then, I would dare say that his being a Lebanese, a Christian, an American-bred fellow, etc. is all irrelevant. As a matter of fact these do not show in 'Marriage' at all, unless you show us.
All one can really feel, if discerning, is an arabic/persian sensitivity to nature and God of a pantheistic flavour with a greek platonic bias. One can be sure Khalil could write, speak and think in arabic and felt arabic.
Hiowever, as i said, being an arab does not exclude deep Persian, Greek, French influences. As I said and maintain, there is not yet such a thing as a Lebanese culture as where does one place the Druses of Mount Lebanon, for example, and the miriad of arabic ethnies in Lebanon? The same applies to us Australians, in spite of fanatical local claims.
Hasta La Vista.


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