At the Door of the Temple
Jalil Gibran’s Thoughts and Meditations
I purified my lips with the sacred fire, to speak of Love, but could find no words.
When Love became known to me, the words lapsed into a faint gasping, and the song in my heart into deep silence.
Oh you who asked me about Love, whom I convinced of its mysteries and wonders, now since Love has wrapped me in its veil, I come to ask you about Love’s course and merit.
Who can answer my questions? I ask about that which is in me; I seek to be informed about myself.
Who among you can reveal my inner self to myself and my soul to my soul?
Tell me, for Love’s sake, what is that flame which burns in my heart and devours my strength and dissolves my will?
What are those hidden soft and rough hands that grasp my soul; what is that wine mixed of bitter joy and sweet pain that suffuses my heart?
What are those wings that hover over my pillow in the silence of Night. And keep me awake, watching no one knows what?
What is the invisible thing I stare at, the incomprehensible thing that I ponder, the feeling that can not be sensed?
In my sighs is a grief more beautiful than the echo of laughter and more rapturous than joy.
Why do I surrender myself to an unknown power that slays me and revives me until Dawn rises and fills my chamber with its light?
Phantoms of wakefulness tremble between my seared eyelids, and shadows of dreams hover over my stony bed.
What is that which we call Love? Tell me, what is that secret hidden within the ages yet which permeates all consciousness?
What is this consciousness that is at once origin and result of everything?
What is this vigil that fashions from Life and Death a dream, stranger than Life and deeper than Death?
Tell me, friends, is there one among you who would not awake from the slumber of Life if Love touched his soul with its fingertip?
Which one of you would not leave his father and mother at the call of the virgin whom his heart loves?
Who among you would not sail the distant seas, cross the deserts, and climb the topmost peak to meet the woman whom his soul has chosen?
What youth’s heart would not follow to the ends of the world the maiden whose aromatic breath, sweet voice, and magic-soft hands have enraptured his soul?
What being would not burn his heart as incense before a god who listens to his supplications and grants his prayer?
Yesterday I stood at the temple door interrogating the passers-by about the mystery and merit of Love.
And before me passed an old man with an emaciated and melancholy face, who sighed and said:
“Love is a natural weakness bestowed upon us by the first man.”
But a virile youth retorted:
“Love joins our present with the past and the future”
Then a woman with a tragic face sighed and said:
“Love is a deadly poison injected by black vipers, that crawl from the caves of hell. The poison seems fresh as dew and the thirsty soul eagerly drinks it; but after the first intoxication the drinker sickens and dies a slow death.”
Then a beautiful, rosy-cheeked damsel smilingly said:
“Love is wine served by the brides of Dawn which strengthens strong souls and enables them to ascend to the stars.”
After her a black-robed, bearded man, frowning, said:
“Love is the blind ignorance with which youth begins and ends.”
Another, smiling, declared:
“Love is a divine knowledge that enables men to see as mucho as the gods.”
Then said a blind man, feeling his way with a cane:
“Love is a blinding mist that keeps the soul from discerning the secret of existence, so that the heart sees only trembling phantoms of desire among the hills, and hears only echoes of cries from voiceless valleys.”
A young man, playing on his viol, sang:
“Love is a magic ray emitted from the burning core of the soul and illuminating the surrounding earth. It enables us to perceive Life as a beautiful dream between one awakening and another.”
And a feeble ancient, dragging his feet like two rags, said, in quavering tones:
“Love is the rest of the body in the quiet of the grave, the tranquillity of the soul in the depth of Eternity.”
And a five-year-old child, after him, said lighting:
“Love is my father and mother, and no one knows Love save my father and mother.”
And so, all who passed spoke of Love as the image of their hopes and frustrations, leaving it a mystery as before.
Then I heard a voice within the temple:
“Life is divided into two halves, one frozen, the other aflame; the burning half is Love.”
Thereupon I entered the temple, kneeling, rejoicing, and praying:
“Make me, O Lord, nourishment
For the brazing flame…
Make me, O God, food for the
Sacred fire… Amen.”