Kahlil Gibran Collective


The Madman: His Parables and Poems, New York: Knopf, 1918.

Gibran’s first book in English, 'The Madman: His Parables and Poems,' was completed in 1917; it was brought out in 1918 by the young literary publisher Alfred A. Knopf, who went on to publish all of Gibran’s English works. An introduction, in which the narrator tells how he became a madman when a thief stole his masks and he ran maskless through the streets, is followed by a series of pieces that were written, and sometimes published, separately. Most were composed in Arabic and translated into English by Gibran with Haskell’s editorial assistance. New here are a sardonic or bitter tone and a move from prose poem to parable as Gibran’s major mode of expression. The pieces include “The Two Cages,” in which a caged sparrow greets a caged lion each morning as “brother,” and “The Three Ants,” in which the insects meet on the nose of a sleeping man. The first two remark on the barren nature of this strange land; the third insists that they are on the nose of the Supreme Ant. The other ants laugh at his strange preaching; at that moment the man awakes, scratches his nose, and crushes the ants. Reviews were mixed but mostly positive. Mayy Ziyada, however, told Gibran that the “cruelty” and “dark caverns” in the work made her nervous. Several of the poems were anthologized in poetry collections.