Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Prophet, written by Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran, is a book of twenty-six poetry fables which were first published in 1923 by Alfred A. Knopf.
The Prophet begins with a man named Almustafa who has been living in Orphalese for twelve years. He has been chosen as the townspeople's prophet and sage while he waits for the right ship to come along which will take him back to his homeland:
Almustafa, the chosen and the beloved, who was a dawn unto his own day, had waited twelve years in the city of Orphalese for his ship that was to return and bear him back to the isle of his birth.
When he sees his ship arrive, Almustafa is happy but feels a sense of sadness at leaving the people he has come to care for behind. He leaves the hills and returns to the temple in the city. There, he is asked by the elders not to leave, but they ask him—if he must go—to tell them about his philosophy on life and death.
The seer Almitra encourages Almustafa to answer the townspeople's questions, and she herself opens with a question of her own. This encourages the townspeople to ask for counsel on many issues that affect them, including food, drink, clothes, crime, religion, marriage, children, love, death, good, evil, beauty, property, and friendship. These twenty-six questions and Almustafa's spiritual responses form the basis for the different sections of the book:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. [marriage]
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. [children]
It knows not the ways of the mole nor seeks it in the holes of the serpent. [crime and punishment]
Your house shall not be an anchor but a mast. [property]
As the day draws to a close, Almitra blesses the day and the city and she, Almustafa, and the townspeople move down to the pier towards the waiting ship. Almustafa offers one more speech to the townspeople, thanking them and telling them that they have given him more than he has returned to them. He asks them to be patient in waiting for all that life has to offer and promises to return to them in another incarnation:
A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.
Almitra stays on the pier alone as she watches him leave, staying long after the ship has disappeared from view.