Youth and Hope


Youth and Hope
by Kahlil Gibran

Youth walked before me as I followed him until we came to a distant field. There he stopped, and gazed at the clouds that drifted over the horizon like a flock of white lambs. Then he looked at the trees whose naked branches pointed toward the sky as if praying to Heaven for the return of their foliage. 
    And I said, "Where are we now, youth?" 
    And he replied, "we are in the field of Bewilderment. Take heed." 
    And I said, "Let us go back at once, for this desolate place affrights me, and the sight of the clouds and the naked trees saddens my heart." 
    And he replied, "Be patient. Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge." 

Then I looked around me and saw a form moving gracefully toward us and I asked, "Who is this woman?"
    And Youth replied, "this is Melpmene, daughter of Zeus, and Muse of Tragedy." 
    "Oh, happy youth!" I exclaimed, "what does Tragedy want of me, while you are at my side?" 
   And he answered, "She has come to show you the earth and its sorrows; for he who has not looked on Sorrow will never see Joy."
Then the spirit laid a hand upon my eyes. When she withdrew it, Youth was gone, and I was alone, divested of my earthly garments, and I cried, "Daughter of Zeus, where is Youth?" 
     Melpmene did not answer; but took me up under her wings, and carried me to the summit of a high mountain. Below me I saw the earth and all in it, spread out like the pages of a book, upon which were inscribed the secrets of the universe. I stood in awe beside the maiden, pondered the mystery of Man, and struggled to decipher Life's symbols.
   And I saw woeful things: The Angels of happiness warring with the Devils of Misery, and standing between them was Man, now drawn one way by Hope and now another by Despair. 
    I saw Love and Hate dallying with the human heart; Love concealing Man's guilt and besotting him with the wine of submission, praise and flattery; while Hatred provoked him, and sealed his ears and blinded his eyes to Truth. 
    And I beheld the city crouching like a child of its slums and snatching at the garment of the son of Adam. From afar I saw the lovely fields weeping over man's sorrow.
    I beheld priests foaming like sly foxes; and false messiahs contriving and conspiring against Man's happiness. 
    And I saw Man calling upon Wisdom for deliverance; but Wisdom did not hearken to his cries, for he had contemned her when she spoke to him in the streets of the city. 
    And I saw preachers gazing in adoration toward the heavens, while their hearts were interred in the pits of Greed. 
    I saw a youth winning a maiden's heart with sweet speech; but their true feelings were asleep, and their divinity was far away. 
    I saw the lawmakers chattering idly, selling their wares in the market places of Deceit and Hypocrisy. 
    I saw physicians toying with the souls of the simple-hearted and trustful. I saw the ignorant sitting with the wise, exalting their past to the throne of glory, adorning their present with the robes of plenty, and preparing a couch of luxury for the future. 
    I saw the wretched poor sowing the seed, and the strong reaping; and oppression, miscalled Law, standing guard. 
    I saw the thieves of Ignorance despoiling the treasures of Knowledge, while the sentinels of Light lay drowned in the deep sleep of inaction. 
   And I saw two lovers; but the woman was like a lute in the hand of a man who cannot play, but understand only harsh sounds. 
    And I beheld the forces of Knowledge laying siege to the city of Inherited Privilege; but they were few in number and were soon dispersed. 
    And I saw Freedom walking alone, knocking at doors, and asking for shelter, but no one heeded her pleas. Then I saw Prodigality striding in splendor, and the multitude acclaiming her as Liberty. 
    I saw Religion buried in books, and Doubt stood in her place. 
    And i saw man wearing the garments of Patience as a cloak for Cowardice and calling Sloth tolerance, and Fear Courtesy. 
    I saw the intruder sitting at the board of Knowledge, uttering folly, but he guests were silent. 
    I saw gold in the hands of the wasteful, a means of evil-doing; and in the hands of the miserly as a bait for hatred. But in the hands of the wise I saw no gold. 
    When I beheld all these things, I cried out in pain, "Oh Daughter of Zeus, is this indeed the Earth? Is this Man?" 
    In a soft and anguished voice she replied, "What you see is the Soul's path, and it is paved with sharp stones and carpeted with thorns. this is only the shadow of man. this is Night. but wait! morning will soon be here." 
    then she laid a gentle hand upon my eyes, and when she withdrew it, behold! there was youth walking slowly by my side, and ahead of us, leading the way, marched Hope.  


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