How I Became A Madman
You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,—the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives,—I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”
Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.
And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”
Thus I became a madman.
And I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.
But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.
About Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran (جبران خليل جبران) was a writer, visual artist, and poet with a prolific collection of work. He was born in 1883 in a village in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate and in 1893 moved with his family to the United States where he enrolled in school in Boston, then went back home when he was fifteen to enroll in the Collège de la Sagesse. In 1902 he came back to Boston, and two years later his artwork was displayed for the first time. In 1905 he published his first book, and after that studied art in Paris for three years. Gibran wrote books in both Arabic and English, including poems, plays, fables, short stories, and political essays.
His cousin, Kahlil G. Gibran, a sculptor, described his work in this way. “Ignoring much of the traditional vocabulary and form of classical Arabic, he began to develop a style which reflected the ordinary language he had heard as a child in Besharri and to which he was still exposed in the South End [of Boston]. This use of the colloquial was more a product of his isolation than of a specific intent, but it appealed to thousands of Arab immigrants.” (Robin Waterfield, 1998) He was inspired by the King James Bible, the works of William Blake, whose drawings were in Gibran’s opinion “so far the profoundest things done in English.” (Joseph Ghougassian, 1973) Other inspirations included Francis Marrash (فرنسيس بن فتح الله بن نصر الله مرّاش), Walt Whitman, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
With visual art Gibran worked in oils, pencil, ink, watercolor, and gouache, and created more than seven hundred pieces of visual art. His work is featured in a number of museums, and his work The Prophet has been translated into more than 100 languages and has never been out of print, becoming popular in the American counterculture and New Age movement. The book was admired by Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Gilad Hochman (גילעד הוכמן) and Dana Al Fardan. Gibran has museums, memorials, schools, a garden, and a crater on Mercury named after him.
We hope you enjoyed “How I Became A Madman” by Kahlil Gibran! If you liked “How I Became A Madman” by Kahlil Gibran, you might enjoy more poems by him in the full library.
“Stunning…from start to finish. Barkat is a fierce new voice.”