The Coming of the Ship

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By Kahlil Gibran

Vera the Sun Devil sailing the Pacific off the Coast of Santa Cruz...

ALMUSTAFA... the chosen and
the beloved... who was a dawn onto his own
day... had waited twelve years in the city of
Orphalese for his ship that was to return
and bear him back to the isle of his birth.

And in the twelfth year... on the seventh
day of Ielool... the month of reaping... he
climbed the hill without the city walls
and looked seaward; and he beheld the ship
coming with the mist.

Then the gates of his heart were flung open...
and his joy flew far over the sea.
And he closed his eyes and prayed in the silences of his soul.

But as he descended the hill... a sadness came upon him...
and he thought in his heart:

How shall I go in peace and without sorrow..?
Nay... not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.

Long were the days of pain I have spent
within its walls... and long were the nights of
aloneness; and who can depart from his pain
and his aloneness without regret..?

Too many fragments of the spirit have
I scattered in these streets... and too many
are the children of my longing that walk
naked among these hills... and I cannot withdraw
from them without a burden and an ache.

It is not a garment I cast off this day...
but a skin that I tear with my own hands.

Nor is it a thought I leave behind me...
but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.

Yet I cannot tarry longer.

The sea that calls all things unto her calls me...
and I must embark.

For to stay... though the hours burn in the night...
is to freeze and crystallize and be bound in a mould.

Fain would I take with me all that is
here.  But how shall I..?

A voice cannot carry the tongue and the
lips that give it wings.  Alone must it seek the ether.

And alone and without his nest shall the
eagle fly across the sun.

Now when he reached the foot of the hill...
he turned again towards the sea...
and he saw his ship approaching the harbour...
and upon her prow the mariners...
the men of his own land.

And his soul cried out to them... and he said:

Sons of my ancient mother... you riders of the tides...
How often have you sailed in my dreams.
And now you come in my awakening... which is my deeper dream.

Ready am I to go... and my eagerness with
sails full set awaits the wind.

Only another breath will I breathe in this still air...
only another loving look cast backward...
And then I shall stand among you...
a seafarer among seafarers.

And you... vast sea... sleepless mother...
Who alone are peace and freedom to the
river and the stream...
Only another winding will this stream make...
only another murmur in this glade...
And then shall I come to you...
a boundless drop to a boundless ocean.

And as he walked he saw from afar men
and women leaving their fields and their
vineyards and hastening towards the city gates.

And he heard their voices calling his name...
and shouting from the field to field telling
one another of the coming of the ship.

And he said to himself:

Shall the day of parting be the day of gathering..?

And shall it be said that my eve was in truth my dawn..?

And what shall I give unto him who has left his plough in midfurrow...
or to him who has stopped the wheel of his winepress..?

Shall my heart become a tree heavy-laden
with fruit that I may gather and give unto them..?

And shall my desires flow like a fountain
that I may fill their cups..?

Am I a harp that the hand of the mighty may touch me...
or a flute that his breath may pass through me..?

A seeker of silences am I... and what
treasure have I found in silences that I may
dispense with confidence..?

If this is my day of harvest... in what
fields have I sowed the seed... and in what
unremembered seasons..?

If this indeed be the hour in which I lift up my lantern...
it is not my flame that shall burn therein.

Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern...
And the guardian of the night shall fill
it with oil and he shall light it also.

These things he said in words. But much
in his heart remained unsaid. For he himself
could not speak his deeper secret.

And when he entered into the city all the
people came to meet him... and they were
crying out to him as with one voice.
And the elders of the city stood forth and said:

Go not yet away from us.

A noontide have you been in our twilight...
and your youth has given us dreams to dream.

No stranger are you among us... nor a guest...
but our son and our dearly beloved.

Suffer not yet our eyes to hunger for your face.

And the priests and the priestesses said unto him:

Let not the waves of the sea separate us now...
and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory.

You have walked among us a spirit...
and your shadow has been a light upon our faces.

Much have we loved you. But speechless was our love...
and with veils has it been veiled.

Yet now it cries aloud unto you...
and would stand revealed before you.

And ever has it been that love knows not
its own depth until the hour of separation.

And others came also and entreated him.

But he answered them not. He only bent
his head; and those who stood near saw his
tears falling upon his breast.

And he and the people proceeded towards
the great square before the temple.

And there came out of the sanctuary a
woman whose name was Almitra.  And she was a seeress.

And he looked upon her with exceeding
tenderness... for it was she who had first
sought and believed in him when he had
been but a day in their city.

And she hailed him... saying:

Prophet of God... in quest for the uttermost...
long have you searched the distances for your ship.

And now your ship has come... and you must needs go.

Deep is your longing for the land of your
memories and the dwelling place of your
greater desires; and our love would not bind
you nor our needs hold you.

Yet this we ask ere you leave us... that you
speak to us and give us of your truth.

And we will give it unto our children...
and they unto their children... and it shall not perish.

In your aloneness you have watched with our days...
and in your wakefulness you have
listened to the weeping and the laughter of our sleep.

Now therefore disclose us to ourselves...
and tell us all that has been shown you of that which is between birth and death.

And he answered...

People of Orphalese... of what can I speak save of that which
is even now moving within your souls..?


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