Romanticism and Rationalism. Two distinct, yet entwined concepts. Often they are seen as antonyms of each other. Yet, are they really as alien to each other as it appears on the surface? Can you not trace a speckle of truth in imagination? Do you not see a hint of colour to science?
When I chanced upon the creation of Khalil Gibran, I saw the perfect link between romanticism and rationalism. East and West. A Lebanese- American wordsmith, Khalil Gibran effortlessly weaves idealism of the East and realism of the West into his narratives. Though I normally don’t subscribe to stereotypes, I agree wholeheartedly that the soul of the East will always remain anchored to a rich earth of mysticism. In Gibran, I find this soul expressed.
I remember having an aversion to scientific unmasking of the wonders around me: rainbows stripped off their colourful cloaks, dewdrops losing their magical sheen, one by one. As I stepped into adulthood, I was snatched forcibly from the world of make-believe. Today, childhood fairy tales and rhythms are meted out with logic and viewed under the microscope of reasoning. Why is childhood being denied? Where is the innocence dying? Fairy tales which always carried the distinct aroma of oats and comfort, in today’s popular narratives are assuming the adult odour of cigarettes and coffee. In the name of realism, are we exiting the Kingdom of Childhood? Now that’s a discussion for another day. Getting back to Gibran, let me introduce you to one of his popular poems, The Creation I.
“The God separated a spirit from Himself and fashioned it into Beauty. He showered upon her all the blessings of gracefulness and kindness. He gave her the cup of happiness and said, “Drink not from this cup unless you forget the past and the future, for happiness is naught but the moment.” And He also gave her a cup of sorrow and said, “Drink from this cup and you will understand the meaning of the fleeting instants of the joy of life, for sorrow ever abounds.”
And the God bestowed upon her a love that would desert he forever upon her first sigh of earthly satisfaction, and a sweetness that would vanish with her first awareness of flattery.
And He gave her wisdom from heaven to lead to the all-righteous path, and placed in the depth of her heart and eye that sees the unseen, and created in he an affection and goodness toward all things. He dressed her with raiment of hopes spun by the angels of heaven from the sinews of the rainbow. And He cloaked her in the shadow of confusion, which is the dawn of life and light.
Then the God took consuming fire from the furnace of anger, and searing wind from the desert of ignorance, and sharp- cutting sands from the shore of selfishness, and coarse earth from under the feet of ages, and combined them all and fashioned Man. He gave to Man a blind power that rages and drives him into a madness which extinguishes only before gratification of desire and placed life in him which is the specter of death.
And the god laughed and cried. He felt an overwhelming love and pity for Man, and sheltered him beneath His guidance “.
The Creation I unfolds against the age-old biblical narrative of Adam and Eve. This narrative spirals a little away from the Biblical tale of creation. I read this poem during my school days. English flavours were prevalent in most of my school-day poetry consumption and with Gibran’s poetry, I shied a little away from the norm. With Gibran, I saw the woman as ‘Beauty’ a celestial being made from God itself; not as a piece of man as depicted in popular literature. With the first line itself, Gibran sets the tone for the whole poem. The poem which is written in Blank verse invokes its melody through its choice of words and phrases used: one such example is the figurative language used in the following lines ‘He dressed her with raiment of hopes spun by the angels of heaven from the sinews of the rainbow’.
Beauty in Gibran is gifted by God with hope, sweetness and intuition. She almost seems like a figment of the imagination, a being that is so full of light that she appears to be an apparition. The man, in contrast, is forged from forces of nature- fire, wind and death. To me, he sounded more real than the idea of woman that Gibran paints. Though at first, it seemed to me that he is trying to shatter the patriarchal image of a woman being created out of a man, the rest of the poem sounded like explaining away patriarchy. Reasoning the power imbalance. Is it his way of trying to tell how it is the very basic nature of man that prompts him to do what he does? The closing line somehow took me back to Tennyson’s Porphyria’s lover,
‘And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!’
where an obsessive lover assumes that he is right in strangling his lover because he didn’t face any retribution from God. Like Tennyson’s persona in the mentioned poem, Gibran’s persona in The Creation I seems to be mansplaining the injustice. Woman as all forgiving entity created to balance the turbulence of man, is the very idea that today women are struggling to break free. Having said this, there are certainly innumerable ways of interpreting this poem.
About the Author : A wanderer at heart, Vibhuthi is the author of Rainbow, an anthology of poems that was published in 2009 by Nishaganti Publication.