Two passions become one when I listen to his words while looking through my lens at scenes found in natural settings. Natural details that he captured with an artist’s eye and retold with a pen over one hundred years ago. Separated by time and distance, I am connected to him through his simple and direct words. Words that calm my mind and remind my heart that it is the wiser of the two organs. This he clearly knew, as artists often do.
In this moment, I wish to stay. I can listen to his words again and again, just as I can return to the same flower again and again. Each time finding something new, both in myself and on the stem. On this day, standing on wet grass far from familiar land, with droplets gently falling, my eyes delight in the delicate flowers washed by purifying rains, as his “life of a flower” line gently washes away the illusion of separation between me and the flowers, between my heart and brain, between me and him… between every living thing.
His words I do hear, but not his voice. I imagine what the poet may have sounded like when he penned these words in 1908 while studying art in Paris. Words that not only inspire, but instruct, for I cannot listen to his poem without crying and smiling.
Writer, poet, and painter, Kahlil Gibran, who is considered “a key figure in a Romantic movement that transformed Arabic literature in the first half of the twentieth century” wrote “A Tear and a Smile” in 1908 in Paris on his 25th birthday. His prose poem is part of a larger collection of work, first published in 1914, that shares the name of the featured poem. Gibran studied art in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1908 to 1910 and it is there that he discovered the work of William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche.
His most popular book, The Prophet, did not receive praise from the critics of his time, who favored the writing styles of James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway. To date, The Prophet has sold over nine million copies since its 1923 publication.
Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883 and immigrated to New York in 1895 with his mom and siblings. They settled in “the teeming immigrant slums” of Boston’s South End, where he attended school and his mother worked as a seamstress. It is there he was given the American spelling of his birth name, Jubran Khalil Jubran, and where he learned to speak and write in English. He continued his education in Lebanon, returning to the U.S. in 1902 after his sister died of TB. His sensitivity to natural beauty is attributed to the “magnificent setting of impoverished Bisharri above the Qadisha Valley on the slopes of Mount Lebanon.”
“His power came from some great reservoir of spiritual life else it could not have been so universal and so potent, but the majesty and beauty of the language with which he clothed it were all his own.”~ Claude Bragdon
Thank you for reading and listening. Be well. 💗 Michele
Nature photos: my images
© 2021 Michele Lee Sefton.