How Do You Cite A Kindle Book In Chicago Style Al-Mawakib, The Processions – The Unknown Masterpiece of Kahlil Gibran

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Al-Mawakib, The Processions – The Unknown Masterpiece of Kahlil Gibran

Best known for his epic book, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran is one of the most widely read poets in history. In 1919, he released a relatively short work in Arabic entitled Al-Mawakib, or in English The Processions. It is his only work written in rhyme and meter, and, relative to its number of pages, it is the most profusely illustrated of all of his works. It also serves, perhaps more than any of his writings, to give transparent insight into his philosophy of life. Yet the work is virtually unknown, and one can only wonder why.

The first English translations of Al-Mawakib were published in 1947. One was by George Kheirallah, entitled The Life of Gibran Khalil Gibran and His Procession, republished in 1958 as simply The Procession (singular). The other was by Anthony Rizcallah Ferris, appearing as “The Cortège” in a collection of Gibran’s works entitled The Secrets of the Heart. Ferris’ translation was published again in 1951 under the title of “The Procession” in A Treasury of Kahlil Gibran. These translations differ so very much from each other that it seems a safe assumption that they were completely independent works. To date, they are the most commonly available English versions of the poem, and yet to anyone familiar with Gibran’s writings, they stand very much apart in style. More importantly, in their efforts to preserve rhyme, meter, and the poetic character of the Arabic, much of Gibran’s original wording and meaning were inevitably lost.

This loss of accuracy, however, is more than just nuances of style and shades of meaning. The precision of the wording is, in this case, the very key to Gibran’s message and philosophy of life. Indeed, Gibran saw himself not only as a writer. In a letter dated 1920, he expressed his desire to be a teacher, saying, “I want some day not to write or paint but simply to live what I would say, and talk to people. I want to be a Teacher… I want to wake their consciousness to what I know it can know.”

Al-Mawakib contains seventeen “processions,” each of which serves to contrast an aspect of our life on earth with our eternal and greater life “in the forests” of our spiritual identity. The implicit exhortation is to remember who we really are and to seek and express this greater truth that resides within us all. Each procession concludes with the recurring and unifying theme of “give me the nay and sing,” in which the sound of the ancient reed flute symbolizes the primal vibration of all creation. As a brief example, if Gibran’s masterpiece were correctly translated, one of the processions would read as follows:

And what is life but a slumber

Infused with the dreams of the one

Who is being directed

By the will of the self.

And the secret of the self lies hidden by its sorrow,

And when sorrow disappears, it lies hidden by its joys,

And the secret of life is obscured by life’s pleasure,

And should pleasure be removed, hardship will obscure it.

If you lift yourself above joy and sorrow, you become neighbor

To the shadow of the perplexing one.

In the forests, there is no sorrow.

No, neither are there cares.

When a breeze blows,

No poisons come with it.

What is sadness in the self

But the shadow of an illusion that does not endure,

And the stars appear from the folds of the self’s clouds.

Give me the nay and sing,

For singing erases distress,

And the moan of the nay endures

After time perishes.

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