On Good and Evil

By Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet published in 1923


And one of the elders of the city said,

Speak to us of Good and Evil.

                And he answered:

                Of the good in you I can speak, but not

of the evil.

                For what is evil but good tortured by its

own hunger and thirst?

                Verily when good is hungry it seeks food

even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it

drinks even of dead waters.


You are good when you are one with


                Yet when you are not one with yourself

you are not evil.

                For a divided house is not a den of thieves:

it is only a divided house.

                And a ship without rudder may wander

aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not

to the bottom.


                You are good when you strive to give of


                Yet you are not evil when you seek gain

for yourself.

For when you strive for gain you are but

a root that clings to the earth and sucks at

her breast.

                Surely the fruit cannot say to the root,

"Be like me, ripe and full and ever

giving of your abundance."

                For to the fruit giving is a need, as

receiving is a need to the root.


                You are good when you are fully awake

in your speech,

                Yet you are not evil when you sleep while

your tongue staggers without purpose.

                And even stumbling speech may strengthen

a weak tongue.

                You are good when you walk to your

goal firmly and with bold steps.

                Yet you are not evil when you go thither


                Even those who limp go not backward.

                But you who are strong and swift, see that

you do not limp before the lame, deeming

it kindness.


You are good in countless ways, and you

are not evil when you are not good,

                You are only loitering and sluggard.

Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness

to the turtles.


In your longing for your giant self lies

your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.

But in some of you that longing is a

torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying

the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of

the forest.

                And in others it is a flat stream that loses

itself in angles and bends and lingers before

it reaches the shore.

                But let not him who longs much say to

him who longs little, "Wherefore are you slow and halting?"

                For the truly good ask not the naked,

"Where is your garment?" not the houseless,

"What has befallen your house?"





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