The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Prophet, an old man named Almustafa, is about to board a ship that has arrived to take him back to his native land after twelve years among the people of the city of Orphalese. In these twelve years the people of the city have come to love and revere the Prophet for his wisdom and gentle spirit, and they gather in the great square before the temple and beseech him not to leave but to remain with them forever. As the multitude weeps and pleads, Almitra, the seer who had first befriended the Prophet on his arrival in the city, comes out of the sanctuary and asks him to speak to the people about life.

Almitra asks that he first speak of love, whereupon the Prophet admonishes the hushed audience to follow love when he beckons, even though he might wound as he caresses, might destroy dreams as he entices. For love, he says, demands complete commitment, a testing in the sacred fires, if one is to see into one’s own heart and have knowledge of life’s heart. The cowardly should cover themselves and flee from love, and those who can never be possessed by love can never know fulfillment.

The Prophet is then asked to speak of marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, and crime and punishment. In response to the latter request by a judge of the city, the Prophet speaks at length, pointing out that whereas the most righteous cannot rise above the highest that is in all people, so the...

(The entire section is 483 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Gibran, Jean. Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1974. General overview of Gibran’s life and the influences that shaped his writings. General references to The Prophet are found throughout.

Nassar, Eugene Paul. “Cultural Discontinuity in the Works of Kahlil Gibran.” MELUS 7, no. 2 (Summer, 1980): 21-36. Looks at Gibran’s experiences of cultural alienation and how these became the theme of loneliness that recurs throughout his writings, including The Prophet. Compares this poem to writings of William Blake, Walt Whitman, and others.

Nu’aymah, Mikha’il. Kahlil Gibran: A Biography. New York: Philosophical Library, 1973. A view of Gibran’s life, times, and the influences that shaped his writings. Discusses Gibran’s style and the form used in this poem; compares them to Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1892) by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Young, Barbara. This Man from Lebanon: A Study of Kahlil Gibran. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945. As a long-time secretary and confidant to Gibran, Young provides an intimate, behind-the scenes picture of Gibran’s life and times. The Prophet is discussed as it relates to influential events and people in Gibran’s life.