In 1923, Khalil Gibran wrote his most famous book, The Prophet. It's difficult to tell whether the work is poetry or prose, and some have even called it a collection of "poetic essays".
The book is divided into 28 chapters. The first and last chapter talk about the Prophet of the story, a man called Almustafa, who is about to leave the city of Orphalese after living there for 12 years. In each of the other 26 chapters, a person of the city asks him to speak of a certain topic before he leaves. As requested, he speaks of Love, Marriage, Children, Religion, Good and Evil, and finally, just before he boards his ship to leave, of Death.
I've read The Prophet many times since I was a child. It's a beautiful work, almost heartbreakingly poetic. It flows like a great river: words into sentences, sentences into chapters, chapters into one another. In it, you can find a reflection of your soul. This, to me, is the mark of a master writer. One who can cease the mind, soul and heart of the reader, and allow them to see themselves in the work.
I have always held the first chapter close to my heart. Gibran's words On Love mesmerised me from the moment I read them. His Love was a strong and uncompromising thing, based on faith and sacrifice. There was no room for selfishness or fear. His love was a frightening thing, yet so very worth the risk.
When I was a child, I read it to try to discover what Love was. I didn't understand what it was, yet I wanted it. It seemed a desirable thing, this love, that would make you "wake at dawn with a winged heart", and "return home at eventide with gratitude". I wanted that.
As an adolescent, new to the pangs and uncertainties of love, I read it to gain fortitude. "When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep."
I read it to understand that others had felt the pain of love, and that pain was a necessary part of love. "But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears."
Now, as an adult, I read it because I truly understand it, and am fortunate enough to have a long and lasting love. I stepped out into the world, and found the man that I love. Together, we have weathered the storms of life, and also known great happiness. I do wake every morning with a winged heart. I do return home with gratitude.
"All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart."