This week’s poem marks another wedding: that of my friend Sam’s daughter Charlotte to her long time partner Nathan. It is taken from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,Kahlil Gibran (1883—1931)
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Poem 240. The Prophet Speaks of Marriage
Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage master?
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. 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.
In this short free verse poem, the fictional prophet is asked to consider marriage and he answers that although a couple are destined to be together from their birth to their deaths and beyond, preserved in “the silent memory of God,” each should give the other space.
Husband and wife should love each other without it constraining them: love should run between them naturally like waves between separate but adjacent shores. They should share their food and drink with each other but not too intimately; they should celebrate together but retain their independence, just as the separate strings of a musical instrument vibrate to the same tune.
Each should love the other but allow them freedom to manoeuvre: the pillars of a temple stand apart but close enough to support its roof and a tree does not prosper in another’s shadow.
I like this poem because my mother read it at our wedding and it reminds me of one of the most special days in my life. I think its message is also important: while marriage binds a couple closer together, they should not focus solely on each other but should retain their other interests and friends.
I wish Charlotte and Nathan a long, happy and healthy marriage.