2

I find the poetic imaginary in this verse from kind of disturbing:

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 22For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

With "Archer" being a metaphor for the divine, why does He love for the bow to be stable? What does "stability" refer to here?

Also I don't know if it is the same in the original script or printed copies, but interestingly in the Project Gutenberg text the first "archer" is not capitalized while the second one is. Why is that?

The references of the arrow and bow are readily understood. With this question I am looking for something deeper. If we assume the target is a target of reproduction, what does "stable" mean in that context? The arrow has to hit the target because the divine wants the offspring to be "straight"? Straight how? That is kind of disturbing to think about. What would "unstable" mean then? I think there's more to this than meets the eye. Full of imagery with metaphorical implications worth scrutinizing.

  • 2
    Because if the bow is unstable, you're going to miss the target? – gktscrk Oct 1 at 8:15
  • @gktscrk Maybe I should rephrase my question: What is the target? Reproduction? I find the image that this verse evokes disturbing and that is the genesis of my question A male God grabs and bends a female human, using her as a conduit for offspring. – Eddie Kal Oct 1 at 17:49
  • Ah, fair enough. In this translation there's no capitalization. – gktscrk Oct 1 at 18:18
  • @gktscrk I am fairly certain The Prophet was originally written in English. I don't know how good Kahlil Gibran's English writing skills were but The Prophet very likely had been edited by Mary Haskell and Alfred A. Knopf editors. I wouldn't be surprised if there's multiple versions/editions out there, but I am curious if the printed editions are consistent in this regard. – Eddie Kal Oct 1 at 18:27
  • Sorry, you're correct. I was reading this and got carried away. – gktscrk Oct 1 at 18:31
0

I myself don't read too much into the stability. In this entire work, after all, the Prophet describes in detail how always both sides of a quality, i.e. the quality's presence and absence, are equally valuable.

In my pondering, I found two lines of thought which are actually quite distinct (though not mutually exclusive):

I think the same way that other characterisations are used elsewhere in the work—the positive is good, but the negative is not bad—also applies here with 'stability' when referring to parents: children will have an easier time in life if they come from stable parents, i.e., if their home is safe and secure.

However, the more I think about the line, the less happy I am with this reading.

Instead, I started to think that the ongoing activity of the flight of the arrow also refers to the many parents who lose sight of what they were doing before once their children start moving away: for the people whose main purpose was raising a child this can be a very difficult process.

This reading matches the start of this passage with "Your children are not your children", reinforcing that parents need to have their own journey (and not live through their children). This would also translate into the imagery where the Archer's action of bending a bow is representative of having a child, but the arrow's flight—the child's path—is their own making (and that of the Archer, of course). The bow—the parents—are only a vehicle through which this is happening. The parents cannot control what their children do or think, and they shouldn't strive to do it. Stability is, in this case, the self-containment of the parents' wishes and desires.

I should note my copy didn't capitalize either 'archer' compared to yours.

| improve this answer | |
0

In the context, the "arrow" is the children, the "bow" is the parents. The parents launch their children into the world without themselves being launched. He loves the bow for being stable exactly because it enables the arrows to move and to do so precisely.

By thus making it metaphorical, the poet does not have to specify which target the children are aimed at (what life or actions they are needed for) or what exactly the parents are doing to launch them. Thus, he can generalize and still get in specific imagery.

| improve this answer | |
  • Well, the references of the arrow and bow are readily understood. With this question I am actually looking for something deeper. I probably should've edited in what I said in the comments. If we assume the target is a target of reproduction, what does "stable" mean in that context? The arrow has to hit the target because the divine wants the offspring to be "straight"? Straight how? That is kind of disturbing to think about. What would "unstable" mean then? I think there's more to this than meets the eye. Full of imagery worth scrutinizing. – Eddie Kal Oct 2 at 17:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.