7

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Why is love a "he" to Kahlil Gibran? I know it is tempting to say it is an arbitrary choice of gender pronoun, but I think there might be some reason for the male gender pronoun, be it cultural, linguistic, religious, or social. I would be asking the same question if it were "she".

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    I don't know if this has anything to do with it, but Love could be personified as the Greek god Eros (Roman Cupid) who is male. I have no idea if that's what Kahlil Gibran had in mnd. – user14111 Oct 2 at 6:31
  • Randomly searching for something by another poet using a gendered pronoun for Love, found this: the last stanza of "Before Dawn" by A. C. Swinburne. So hath it been, so be it; / For who shall live and flee it? / But look that no man see it / Or hear it unaware ; / Lest all who love and choose him / See Love, and so refuse him; / For all who find him lose him, / But all have found him fair. – user14111 Oct 2 at 6:46
  • @user14111 I thought that same thing of Eros, but many other poets have personified love as a woman. – Knight wants Loong back Oct 2 at 6:54
  • It's a good question as feelings like mercy, peace, and other soothing feelings are generally portrayed as woman but here Gibran has personified love as a man. – Knight wants Loong back Oct 2 at 6:56
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It may be because, while he wrote The Prophet in English, his first language was Arabic which has two grammatical genders. The word for love/passion is عشق which is masculine and would be referred to as "he" when used as a pronoun.

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  • As far as I know, Gibran wrote The Prophet directly in English, not as a translation, so I think he would have known that "love" is "it" in English. While the linguistic explanation is correct, surely it provides only half of the answer? – Tsundoku Oct 3 at 12:13
  • This is a good observation, but I think it needs some work, because Arabic has more than one word corresponding to English "love". How can you be confident that Gibran was thinking of عشق rather than حب? – Gareth Rees Oct 3 at 14:47
2

The portrayal of Love in quoted lines (in OP) by Kahlil Gibran is showing the hard and awry paths of love but after few lines more the poem reads:

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

And in the above lines the sublime nature and act of Love is portrayed.

After Shakespeare and the Chinese poet Laozi, Gibran’s work from 1923, The Prophet, has made him the third most-sold poet of all time.. Although, there is no direct source where it is written that Gibran was influenced by Shakespeare but some of the things that he wrote seem to suggest Shakespeare's influence on him, for example he wrote a book whose is name العواصف (translated as 'The Tempests"), and he is also compared to Shakespeare and referred to as "Shakespeare of Middle East".

In Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 1

Benvolio: Alas that love, so gentle in his view,
Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof!”

Romeo: Alas that love, whose view is muffled still,
Should without eyes see pathways to his will!

In the above lines, Shakespeare has personified Love as "he". Benvolio's portrayal of love and Gibran's portrayal are quite similar, they know and say about the gentleness of love but aware that the path of love is rough, hard and steep. So, it seems in some way that Gibran's "he" for Love was influenced by Shakespeare's "he" for Love.

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