My Friend

My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear – a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence.


The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

I would not have thee believe in what I say nor trust in what I do – for my words are naught but thy own thoughts in sound and my deeds thy own hopes in action.

When thou sayest, “The wind bloweth eastward”, I say, “Aye it doth blow eastward”; for I would not have thee know that my mind doth not dwell upon the wind but upon the sea.

Thou canst not understand my seafaring thoughts, nor would I have thee understand. I would be at sea alone.

When it is day with thee, my friend, it is night with me; yet even then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills and of the purple shadow that steals its way across the valley; for thou canst not hear the songs of my darkness nor see my wings beating against the stars – and I fain would not have thee hear or see. I would be with night alone.

When thou ascendest to thy Heaven I descend to my Hell – even then thou callest to me across the unbridgeable gulf, “My companion, my comrade”, and I call back to thee, “My comrade, my companion” – for I would not have thee see my Hell. The flame would burn thy eyesight and the smoke would crowd thy nostrils. And I love my Hell too well to have thee visit it. I would be in Hell alone.

Thou lovest Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; and I for thy sake say it is well and seemly to love these things. But in my heart I laugh at thy love. Yet I would not have thee see my laughter. I would laugh alone.

My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art perfect – and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously. And yet I am mad. But I mask my madness. I would be mad alone.

My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee understand? My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand.

~ Kahlil Gibran, My Friend, from The Madman

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5 Replies to “My Friend”

  1. Here at the glassAll the usual problems, all the habitual farce.You ask,in uncertain voice,What you should do, as if there were a choiceBut to carry onMiming the songAnd hope that it all works out right.TonightIt all seems so strange:My spirit feels rigid, my body deranged.Still that's only from one point of viewAnd we can't have illusions between me and you,My constant friend, ever close at handYou and the undercover man.I reflect: 'It's very strangeTo be going through this changeWith no idea of what it's all been aboutExcept in the context of time…', oh, but I shirk it,I've half a mind not to work it all out.Is this madness just the recurring wave of total emotion,Or a hide for the undercover man,Or a litany, all the signs are there of fervent devotion,Or the cracking of the dam?It's cracked,Smashed and bursting over you,There was no reason to expect such disaster.Now, panicking, you burst for air,Drowning, you know you careFor nothing and no-one but yourselfAnd would denyEven this hand which stretches out towards you to help.But would I leave you in this moment of your trial?Is it my fault that I'm here to see you crying?These phantom figures all around youShould have told you,You should have found out by now,If you hadn't gone and tried to do it all by yourself.Even now we are not lost:If you look out at the nightYou'll see the colours and the lights seem to sayPeople are not far away, at least in distance,And it's only our own dumb resistanceThat's making us stay.When the madness comes, let it flood on down and over me sweetly,Let it drown the parts of me weak and blessed and damned,Let it slake my life, let it take my soul and living completely,Let it be who I am.There may not be time for us all to run in tandem together.The horizon calls with its parallel lines.It may not be right for you to have and hold in one way forever,And yet you still have time,You still have time. ~ Peter Hammill, "The Undercover Man", from "Godbluff" (1975)Similar message in very different language.

  2. Isn't it just? I read almost all of The Madman (it's on Project Gutenberg in full) and was blown away by some of the stories, the crafted turns of phrase etc.

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