Chimerical Land

One of the dearest dreams of my heart is this—somewhere, somewhen, a body of work, say fifty or seventy-five pictures will be hung together in a museum or an institution of some sort, in a large city, where the people could see them, and perhaps love them.

An exile am I in this world. / An exile am I and alone, tormented by my aloneness, which ever directs my thought to a magic and unknown realm / And fills my dreams with shadows of a region distant and unseen.

I shall never again hear the songs of Lebanon, except in dreams.

You have your Lebanon and its dilemma. I have my Lebanon and its beauty.

I am a stranger in this world, and there is a severe solitude and painful lonesomeness in my exile.

The human soul is but a part of a burning torch which God separated from Himself at Creation.

Art must be a direct communication between the artist’s imagination and that of the looker.

Poets of the West think of Lebanon as a legendary place, forgotten since the passing of David and Solomon and the Prophets.

If Lebanon were not my country, I would have chosen it to be.

To those Western poets, the word “Lebanon” is a poetical expression associated with a mountain whose sides are drenched with the incense of the Holy Cedars. It reminds them of the temples of copper and marble standing stern and impregnable and of a herd of deer feeding in the valleys. That night I saw Lebanon dream-like with the eyes of a poet.

[Spring] is a spirit that roams round the earth but hovers over Lebanon, conversing with kings and prophets, singing with the rives the songs of Solomon, and repeating with the Holy Cedars of Lebanon the memory of ancient glory.

If my people had attacked the despots and oppressors and died rebels, I would have said, “Dying for freedom is nobler than living in the shadow of weak submission.”

I believe in you, and I believe in your destiny…. You should be proud of being an American, but you should also be proud that your fathers and mothers came from a land upon which God laid His gracious hand and raised His messengers.

Young Americans of [Lebanese and] Syrian origin, I believe in you.

There is, now, in the East, an awakening that defies the slumber; this awakening will triumph since the sun is its leader and the dawn is its army.

When you are in a beautiful spot or among learned people, or by the side of old ruins, or on the top of a high mountain, whisper my name so that my soul will go to Lebanon and hover around you and share with you the pleasure of life and all life’s meanings and secrets. Remember me when you see the sun rising from behind Mount Sunnin or Fam El Mizab. Think of me when you see the sun coming down toward its setting, spreading its red garment upon the mountains and the valleys as if shedding blood instead of tears as it bids Lebanon farewell.

Meet the admirers of Almuhager in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, and speak to them of the deeds of their immigrant brethren; unfold before them that which the long distance has folded between our hearts and their hearts; and strengthen the ties that connect our souls with their souls.

The Americans are a mighty people who never give up or get tired or sleep or dream…. My longing for my country almost melts my heart…. Had it not been for this cage which I have woven with my own hands, I would have caught the first boat sailing towards the Orient.

The strangest things are the closest to the real truth. In the will of man there is a power of longing which turns the mist in ourselves into sun.

I want to return to Lebanon and stay there forever. Forever….

Always have we been our own forerunners, and always shall we be. And all that we have gathered and shall gather shall be but seeds for fields yet unploughed.

My Affections

The song that lies silent in the heart of a mother sings upon the lips of her child.

I am painting, or I am learning how to paint. It will take me a long time to paint as I want to, but it is beautiful to feel the growth of one’s own vision of things.

There are times when I leave work with the feelings of a child who is put to bed rather early.

The work of Carrière is the nearest to my heart. His figures, sitting or standing behind the mist, say more to me than anything else except the works of Leonardo da Vinci…. And Carrière’s life is not less beautiful than his work. He suffered much, but he understood the mystery of pain: he knew that tears make all things shine.

I cannot but see the dim, sad shadows of the bygone days when [my father] and my mother and my brother [Boutros] and my young sister [Sultana] lived and smiled before the face of the sun. Where are they now? Are they somewhere in an unknown region? Are they together? Do they remember the past as we do?

And stand together yet not too near together: / For the pillars of the temple stand apart, / And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Your children are not your children. / They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. / And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.

Your friend is your needs answered.

Pleasure is a freedom-song. / But it is not freedom.

Bonds that are woven in sadness are stronger than the ties of joy and pleasure.

For love is sufficient unto love.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love.

For out of the sensitive heart of a woman comes forth the happiness of mankind, and in the sentiments of her noble spirit are born the sentiments of their spirits.

He who does not prefer exile to slavery is not free by any measure of freedom, truth and duty.

Truth is like the stars; it does not appear except from behind the obscurity of night.

Brief Were My Words

“Behold another dream is even now turned into the mist.”

Come to me with the dreams that you behold in your wakefulness and I will tell you their meaning.

[M]y peace is but a whirlwind and my enchantment an illusion.

I feel that the fires that feed the affection within me would like to dress themselves with ink and paper.

Let ignorance reproduce itself until it is weary of its own offspring. / Let the blind lead the blind to the pitfall. / And let the dead bury the dead till the earth be choked with its own bitter fruit. / My kingdom is not of the earth.

[About Jesus in the words of Mary Magdalene] His body was single and each part seemed to love every other part…. Was it my aloneness, or was it His fragrance that drew me to Him?

Master, we would be threads between your hands and your loom. Weave us into the cloth if you will, for we would be in the raiment of the Most High.

Jesus the Nazarene was born and reared like ourselves. His mother and father were like our parents, and He was a man. / But the Christ, the Word, who was in the beginning, the Spirit who would have us live our fuller life, came unto Jesus and was with Him… / … the Son of Man.

They released me and chose Him. Then He rose and I fell down. (Barabbas)

The silence that guards the tomb does not reveal God’s secret in the obscurity of the coffin, and the rustling of the branches whose roots suck the body’s elements do not tell the mysteries of the grave, but the agonized sighs of my heart announce to the living the drama which love, beauty, and death have performed.

I run through the streets of this gigantic city [New York], and so many little shadows run after me. I gaze with [a] thousand eyes and listen with [a] thousand ears all through the day; and when I come home late at night I find more things to gaze at and more voices to listen to.

Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,
And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory.

Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.

Have mercy, my soul….
Whilst yet I have naught save the speech of men
To tell therein your dreams.

The indefinite is the path toward the infinite.

Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.

[The purpose of art] is to reveal the conscience of the sea, not to portray so many foaming waves or so much blue water.

When love beckons to you, follow him.

It takes two of us to discover truth: one to utter it and one to understand it.

A woman may veil her face with a smile.

Only an idiot and a genius break man-made laws; and they are the nearest to the heart of God.

Pity is but half justice.

They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold;
And I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.

The silence of the envious is too noisy.

When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.

An exaggeration is a truth that has lost its temper.

He who longs most lives the longest.

When either your joy or your sorrow becomes great the world becomes small.

“God rests in reason.” […] “God moves in passion.”

For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst.

When I was in Egypt, I used to go twice a week to spend long hours seated beneath the pyramids and beneath the Sphinx. I was eighteen years old at the time; my soul trembled before those artistic phenomena as the grass quivers in a storm.

The significance of man is not in what he attains, but rather in what he longs to attain.

Some of us are like ink and some like paper.

Give me an ear and I will give you a voice.

Therefore, if you would understand [that other person], listen not to what he says but rather to what he does not say.

A truth is to be known always, to be uttered sometimes.

Words are timeless.

A great singer is he who sings our silences.

They tell me: If you see a slave sleeping, do not wake him lest he be dreaming of freedom.
I tell them: If you see a slave sleeping, wake him and explain to him freedom.

Wisdom is not in words; / Wisdom is meaning within words.

Paradise is not in repentance; / Paradise is in the pure heart.

Religion is a well-tilled field, / Planted and watered by desire / Of one who longed for Paradise, / Or one who dreaded Hell and Fire.

Happiness is a myth we seek, / If manifested surely irks; / Like river speeding to the plain, / On its arrival slows and murks.

Life is but a sleep disturbed / By dreaming, prompted by the will; / The saddened soul with sadness hides / Its secrets, and the gay, with thrill.

[…] until love came and opened the heart’s doors and lighted its corners.

The heart’s affections are divided like the branches of the cedar tree; if the tree loses one strong branch, it will suffer but it does not die. It will pour all its vitality into the next branch so that it will grow and fill the empty place.

The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.

[The first kiss] is the beginning of the song of Life.

Love is a divine knowledge that enables men to see as much as the gods.

The hours passed like as phantoms in the darkness, what time the maiden solaced herself with tears and took refuge in her solitude and grief.

What can an exiled son do for his / Starving people, and of what value / Unto them is the lamentation of an / Absent poet?

Man is food for the gods,
And the glory of man begins
When his aimless breath is sucked by gods’ hallowed lips.
All that is human counts for naught if human it remain.

A tear to unite me with those of broken heart; a smile to be a sign of my joy in existence.

Have mercy, my soul.
How long, my soul, will you continue in lamenting
Whilst yet sensible of my weakness?
Until when will you cry out,
Whilst yet I have naught save the speech of men
To tell therein your dreams. //
Consider, my soul,
How I did pass my days in hearkening to your teaching.
Look well, my tormentor, behold my body
Wasted and enfeebled in pursuit of you.
My heart was sovereign,
It is now become your slave;
My patience was a comforter,
It is now my chastiser.
My youth was to me a fellow,
Yet today is become my blamer.
This is the all the gods have granted.
What thing more do you desire! //
I have denied myself
And abandoned life’s joy,
And turned aside from the glory of my years.
Now naught remains to me save you.
Judge me, then, with justice,
For justice is your splendour,
Or summon Death, and free me
From the prison of your essence. //
Have mercy, my soul,
For you have burdened me
With a love I cannot carry.
You and love are as one in strength,
And I and matter—weakness divided.
Shall the struggle between strong and weak be eternal? //
Have mercy, my soul,
For you did show to me fortune from afar.
You and fortune are upon a high mountain;
I and misfortune in a deep valley.
How shall the high and the low meet? //
Have mercy, my soul,
For you have revealed to me beauty—
And concealed it.
You and beauty are in the light;
I and ignorance in darkness.
Shall light and darkness merge? //
You, O soul, rejoice in the hereafter—
Ere its coming.
This body despairs of life
Whilst yet in life. //
You walk toward the Infinite, hastening;
This body falters in its step to destruction.
You tarry not, and it does not hasten.
This, O soul, is the summit of despair.
You are raised aloft by Heaven;
This body falls, descending with earth’s pull.
You do not console it,
And it says you not: “Well done.”
This, my soul, is hate. //
You, O soul, are rich in your wisdom;
This body is poor in its understanding.
You deal not with leniency,
And it follows you not.
This, my soul, is the sum of wretchedness. //
You walk in the still night
To the beloved.
And rejoice in his embrace and love.
This body remains
E’er the slain of separation and longing.
Have mercy on me, my soul.

Come, my beloved, let us walk among the little hills, for the snows have melted and life is awakened from its sleep and wanders through the hills and valleys.

The strong shore is my beloved
And I am his sweetheart.
We are at last united by love,
And then the moon draws me from him.

My soul is my friend who consoles me in misery and the distress of life. He who does not befriend his soul is an enemy of humanity, and he who does not find human guidance within himself will perish desperately. Life emerges from within, and derives not from environs.

The Essences of His Body

Because life is naked. A nude body is the truest and noblest symbol of life. If I draw a mountain as a heap of human forms or paint a waterfall in the shape of tumbling human bodies, it is because I see in the mountain a heap of living things, and in the waterfall a precipitate current of life.

Lovers embrace that which is between them rather than each other.

If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

There must be something strangely sacred in salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.

You are blind and I am deaf and dumb, so let us touch hands and understand.

The reality of the other person is not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you.
Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather to what he does not say.

Every seed is a longing

Women opened the windows of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister, and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring.

My soul counselled me and besought me to watch while others sleep / And to seek my pillow while they are wakeful.

Let us go into the North Country and meet the spring. Come with me to the hills, for winter is past and the snows of Lebanon are descending to the valleys to sing with the brooks. // The fields and the vineyards have banished sleep and are awake to greet the sun with their green figs and tender grapes.

The Secret of Death

The Reality of Life is Life itself.

[Y]ou can only be free when even the desire of seeking freedom becomes a harness to you….

[B]eauty is life when life unveils her holy face.

Forgive them, for they do not know that Thou has conquered death….

True light is that which radiates from within a man. It reveals the secrets of the soul to the soul and lets its rejoice in life, singing in the name of the Spirit…. God has given to your spirits wings to soar aloft into the realms of love and freedom. Then why do you cut them off with your own hands and crawl on the earth like insects?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

I am in need of a strong wind that will fell my fruits and my leaves.

I am but a drop of this great ocean.

Let me sleep, my soul is drunk with love.

Life sings in our silences, and dreams in our slumber.

For life and death are one….

You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

Why am I here, O God of lost souls, thou who art lost amongst the gods?

I am forever walking upon these shores, / Betwixt the sand and the foam. / The high tide will erase my foot-prints, / And the wind will blow away the foam, / But the sea and the shore will remain / Forever.

I am forever walking upon these shores, / Betwixt the sand and the foam. / The high tide will erase my foot-prints, / And the wind will blow away the foam, / But the sea and the shore will remain / Forever.

It was but yesterday I thought myself a fragment quivering without rhythm in the sphere of life. / Now I know that I am the sphere, and all life in rhythmic fragments moves within me.

I had a second birth when my soul and my body loved one another and were married.

One may not reach the dawn save by the path of night.

My house says to me, “Do not leave me, for here dwells your past.”

Remembrance is a form of meeting.

Forgetfulness is a form of freedom.

Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death.

It is indeed misery if I stretch an empty hand to men and receive nothing; but it is hopelessness if I stretch a full hand and find none to receive.

Man is like the foam of the sea, that floats upon the surface of the water. When the wind blows, it vanishes, as if it had never been.