Poem: My Countrymen – Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran

Here is a famous philippic of a poem by Lebanese-American poet, painter, novelist and philosopher Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) who is usually known among the Western readers for his philosophical work of fiction “The Prophet”.

Khalil Gibran wrote the scathing damnation to shake his people out of the conformist slumber and to exhort them to rise to the occasion and play their part in changing the fate of their nation. This is a complain of a bitter heart who is extremely sad at having to see his people in the clutches of tyranny and oppression.

Translated from the Arabic by Anthony Riscallah Ferris.

My Countrymen

What do you seek, my countrymen?
Do you desire that I build for you gorgeous palaces,
Decorated with words of empty meaning or temples roofed with dreams? Or
Do you command me to destroy what the liars and tyrants have built?

Speak your insane wish!
What is it you would have me do my countrymen?
I have sung for you, but you did not dance;
I have wept before you, but you did not cry.
Shall I sing and weep at the same time?

I have called you in the silence of the night to
Point out the glory of the moon and the dignity of the stars,
But you startled from your slumber and
Clutched your swords in fear,
Crying “Where is the enemy? We must kill Him first!”
At morning-tide when the enemy came, I called to you again,
But now you did not wake from your slumber,
For you were locked in fear, wrestling with
The processions of spectres in your dreams.

I have loved you, my countrymen, but
My love for you is painful to me and useless to you;
And today I hate you.
I have cried over your humiliation and submission, and
My tears streamed like crystalline,
But could not sear away your stagnant weakness;
Yet they removed the veil from my eyes.

My tears have never reached your petrified hearts, but they
Cleansed the darkness from my inner self.
Today I am mocking at your suffering…

What do you desire, my countrymen?
Do you wish for me to show you the ghost of your
Countenance on the face of still water?
Come, now, and see how ugly you are!

What is it that you seek, my countrymen?
What ask you from life, who does not any longer count you
Among her children?

Knowledge is a light, enriching the warmth of life,
And all may partake who seek it out;
But you, my countrymen, seek out darkness and flee the light

These are the sections of the poem I like the most.  To read the full poem in original format click HERE.

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