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Children -- Kahlil Gibran

Guest poem sent in by Radhika Gowaikar
(Poem #1194) Children
 And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of
 Children."

 And he said:

 Your children are not your children.

 They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

 They come through you but not from you,

 And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

 You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

 For they have their own thoughts.

 You may house their bodies but not their souls,

 For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,
 not even in your dreams.

 You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

 For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

 You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

 The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you
 with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

 Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

 For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that
 is stable.
-- Kahlil Gibran
Throughout 'The Prophet', Kahlil Gibran manages to bring together great
insight into how life works (or should, at any rate) and truly beautiful
language. And he makes the two seem mutually indispensible.  Which is why he
appeals to me intellectually as well as aesthetically. He is a master of
analogies and his texts have many that are apt and natural - that of the
archer in this poem is close to perfection.

From a more simplistic viewpoint, he places the "Leave me alone/Let go of
me" phenomenon that most 'children' experience at some point in a much
wider context. I say this because in recent months the topic of how one
should "bring one's parents up" <g> has come up repeatedly with some of my
friends. Well, here is how. (The minor problem that remains is conveying
it to the parents... <g>)

radhika.

Google spews out vast amounts of pages on Gibran. To name two:

http://leb.net/gibran has a detailed biography of Gibran as well as a lot
of his writings in full. (Including The Prophet.) They spell the first
name Khalil.

[broken link] http://impact.civil.columbia.edu/~fawaz/g-gallery.html has many of
Gibran's illustrations that appear in The Prophet.

104 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

John Burstow said...

Hi Martin,

I love the Wondering Minstrels and depend on it, but I only write you when
something I read there makes me see red--Billy Collins' stuff, for example,
or now today's wretched excuse for wisdom by Kahil Gibran.

To clear the taste buds, here is some Yeats, except maybe not his exact
words, for I have lost the source (I thought it was in the version of "The
Phases of the Moon" that appears Per Amica Silentia Lunae, which I have not
looked at in 35 years). Something like:

The rhetorician would deceive another,
The sentimentalist himself,
While art is but a vision of reality.

And now my "realistic" rewriting of Gibran:

Your children are not your children.

They belong to your religion or the state

They come through you but not from you,

And don't forget they belong to the state.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts;

Our schools and media will give them their thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

Which we will collect from our battlefields tomorrow.

Best,

John

Srinivasan Deepak said...

In this particular instance of Gibran's verse the following lines
say it for me
"And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit,
not even in your dreams."
It is in children that we see the future. Let us "love" and "house"
them, but
let their thoughts and souls be free and unfettered.

peace
/Deepak

POP_Logon_Name said...

I saved this poem in my e-mail - as I do certain poems that I enjoy
reading, over again. Gibran's "Children" echo my thoughts on how I
raised my own children, now 24 and 27years old. I am as proud of
raising them as anything I have ever done. Maybe one day I'll be
enlightened enough to understand John Burstow's comment, which I just
now came across, but at the moment I think he is just a pessimistic
snob. Linda lindau @entermail.net

Debbie Petersen said...

Hi John Burstow

I am curious...why so cynical...?? Don't you think there is enough of
that to go around as is...of course we need to be aware of the varying
influences on one's beliefs and attitudes...but i still prefer to
believe that if people/children choose to do so they can be free
thinkers...and their thoughts can be 'their own'...

And as far as 'wisdom' and 'reality' goes...these are personalised
perceptions...relative to who you are, your life experience, and what
you choose to adopt as your fundamental beliefs...

I for one am quite appreciative of Gibran's work...as a teenager reading
the piece 'Children' encouraged me to strive toward developing an open
mind...to formulate my own opinions on issues of interest to me and not
to merely adopt the dominant paradigms...to not succumb to the
indoctrination of the racist and apartheid society in which i was
raised...

regards,
DEBBiE

Harvie Scott said...

I remember having this poem hanging on the back of the toilet door. I
have read it over and over. Each year as I read it I would understand a
little more and appreciate the analogies. It helps me today with four
children of my own. The poem is truth and art all wrapped into one. I
find it amazing that this poem has stuck with me still. The fact that I
looked it up on the net so many years later still astounds me.

HoldYourHorses said...

As an adoptive parent, I find this piece particularly poignant. No matter
what the origin of our influence on children, and them on us, the journey is
the thing. Gibran talks only about the journey, and neither the beginning nor
the ending. Parents provide a door and transportation through a time, and
no more- and yet it is the most magnificent thing that we can be called to do.

Elaine Nash

Glenn Correya said...

Dear Mr John Burstow,

I saw your paraphrasing of Gibran's "Children" on this website and seek your kind permission to use the verses on the BBC's Have Your Say blog, in the context of the terrible tragedy that is unfolding in Pakistan's Red Mosque.Those few lines capture the pathos of the moment most aptly.

Regards

Glenn Correya
Muscat

phyllis.donahue said...

I have never read anything so profound in my life, I have had one of the small works of Gibran and have turned to this poem as I argue with my daughter as she is decorating her first home. I never thought I would speak the words I said to her. I remembered this poem and used Google to find this site.
thanks

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Anonymous said...

this is about parents who did not read the prophet
--------

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

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Man...the master musicians were pristine poetry -backed by a rag a tag bunch of disciplined scoundrels - all hell bent on creating beauty.

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Aakar said...

Kahlil Gibran is one of my favourites. And his ‘On Children’ refelects my thoughts and aspirations too. But, it took me years to realise its full meaning. My sons are now grown up and in different citits about 2000 km away.

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it is about cinta (love), persahabatan (friendship), and pernikahan (marriage).

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