A Shepherd in South Lebanon

It was late summer when He and three other men first walked upon that road yonder. It was evening, and He stopped and stood there at the end of the pasture.

I was playing upon my flute, and my flock was grazing all around me. When He stopped I rose and walked over and stood before Him.

And He asked me, “Where is the grave of Elijah? Is it not somewhere near this place?”

And I answered Him, “It is there, Sir, underneath that great heap of stones. Even unto this day every passerby brings a stone and places it upon the heap.”

And He thanked me and walked away, and His friends walked behind Him.

And after three days Gamaliel who was also a shepherd, said to me that the man who had passed by was a prophet in Judea; but I did not believe him. Yet I thought of that man for many a moon.

When spring came Jesus passed once more by this pasture, and this time He was alone.

I was not playing on my flute that day for I had lost a sheep and I was bereaved, and my heart was downcast in me.

And I walked towards Him and stood still before Him, for I desired to be comforted.

And He looked at me and said, “You do not play upon your flute this day. Whence is the sorrow in your eyes?”

And I answered, “A sheep from among my sheep is lost. I have sought her everywhere but I find her not. And I know not what to do.”

And He was silent for a moment. Then He smiled upon me and said, “Wait here awhile and I will find your sheep.” And He walked away and disappeared among the hills.

After an hour He returned, and my sheep was close beside Him. And as He stood before me, the sheep looked up into His face even as I was looking. Then I embraced her in gladness.

And He put His hand upon my shoulder and said, “From this day you shall love this sheep more than any other in your flock, for she was lost and now she is found.”

And again I embraced my sheep in gladness, and she came close to me, and I was silent.

But when I raised my head to thank Jesus, He was already walking afar off, and I had not the courage to follow Him.

This is one of the chapters of Kahlil Gibran’s Jesus the Son of Man—His Words and His Deeds as Told and Recorded by Those Who Knew Him (Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf, 1983). All of the reminiscences that Gibran has conjured have the same tone, the same beautiful simplicity, to them, that is a hallmark of all his writing. It’s a poetic prose, and like his prose poetry, evocative of the East in his usage of various turns of phrase, and as obviously in this case, subject matter. But there’s something intangible and indescribable to the writings of Kahlil Gibran that has given them a special place in my heart, ever since first reading him in high school. There’s a calm to it that I find other writers occasionally approach, or occasionally accomplish, but not with the consistency of Gibran. Perhaps part of it is the charm with which he writes of a Lebanon that is long gone. Oh, the places are still there even now, and one can still visit beautiful Bsharre, where the Gibran museum is, and where he now rests, for a glance at what all the country once resembled, red-tiled rooves clinging to the side of the deep, verdant Holy Valley, not far from where cedars still stand proud in the mountain mists. One wonders who couldn’t grow up to be a poet coming from such a place. Yet, I’m sure Gibran would be quite heartbroaken about the turns Lebanon has taken in the last several decades. This is apparently the official Gibran site, and there are some pictures there, and a bibliography.

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