Gibran was invited to Beirut to participate in a ceremony honoring the Lebanese poet Kahlil Effandi Mutran. Unable to attend the celebration, he sent this short story to be read on his behalf. In the letter Gibran included with the story, he said that the “devilish muses” inspired this prose and that its length was short when compared with “the dignity of the great prince and outstanding poet.”

Gibran believed in reincarnation for the purpose of completing tasks left undone by the person’s death. “The Poet from Baalbek” provides a clear example of this belief. Part 1 is set in the city of Baalbek, 112 b.c.e. The emir is saddened by the death of a beloved poet. A sage from India comforts the emir with these words, “Remember . . . that the sacred Law which restores the sublimity of Spring after the passing of Winter will reinstate you a prince and him a genius poet.”

The setting for part 2 is Cairo, Egypt, and the year is 1912. A pensive prince asks his companion to recite some poetry. When the prince hears poetry that speaks to his soul, he asks who wrote the verses. The reply is, “the poet from Baalbek.” Upon hearing this, the prince remembers words spoken long ago by Mohammed: “You were dead and He brought you back to life, and He will return you to the dead and then restore you to life. Whereupon you shall go back to him.” The prince decides that this poet must be honored because “he...

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