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.)