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Song of the Flower by Kahlil Gibran

“Song of the Flower” is written by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American author, poet, and visual artist of the 20th-century. In his early childhood, Gibran grew up in Bsharri village around Mount Lebanon of Northern Lebanon. Therefore, his writing was influenced by the nature he witnessed around during his early childhood years; the landscape, the mountains, the beautiful waterfalls, and the lush trees had a significant impact on Gibran’s young mind. Nature is represented both symbolically and descriptively in Gibran’s poetry. This particular poem is about the life of a flower. It is truly amazing to note how greatly Gibran manages to capture the beauty of a flower’s life through his poetic verses despite its impermanence and fragility.

● Read the full poem “Song of the Flower” below:

Song of the Flower (XXIII)
by Kahlil Gibran

I am a kind word uttered and repeated
By the voice of Nature;
I am a star fallen from the
Blue tent upon the green carpet.
I am the daughter of the elements
With whom Winter conceived;
To whom Spring gave birth; I was
Reared in the lap of Summer and I
Slept in the bed of Autumn.

At dawn I unite with the breeze
To announce the coming of light;
At eventide I join the birds 
In bidding the light farewell.

The plains are decorated with
My beautiful colors, and the air
Is scented with my fragrance.

As I embrace Slumber the eyes of
Night watch over me, and as I
Awaken I stare at the Sun, which is
The only eye of the day.

I drink dew for wine and harken to
The voices of the birds, and dance
To the rhythmic swaying of the grass.

I am the lover’s gift; I am the wedding wreath;
I am the memory of a moment of happiness;
I am the last gift of the living to the dead;
I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.

But I look up high to see only the light,
And never look down to see my shadow.
This is wisdom which man must learn.

- from A Tear and a Smile (1950)
Analysis of Song of the Flower by Kahlil Gibran


Summary

Although not explicitly understood from the first few lines of the poem, “Song of the Flower,” the speaker/singer is a flower talking about its life, origin, and the events occurring day and night. The flower’s life has ups and downs is mixed with joy and sorrow, but the flower is immensely optimistic throughout. That wisdom “which man must learn” from how the flower lives or its views on life.

Humans use flowers on different occasions because they are associated with a variety of human emotions. What Gibran tries to capture through the image of the flowers in this poem is the beauty of the simultaneity of life, birth and death, and multiplicity of emotions existing together, creating novel experiences that define what it means to be alive on this Earth.

Meaning

Life is not a simple joyride. One cannot expect only good or happy moments to happen. It is a blend of both good and bad. The essence of life lies in that simultaneous presence of joy and sorrow. Gibran was a philosopher-poet, and his writings express deep philosophical sentiments about life and humankind. He never indulged in pride and boastfulness because of his humbleness and wisdom. “Song of the Flower” is a philosophical poem where Gibran expatiates upon the life of a flower to describe how life needs to be looked at optimistically. When humans leave the past behind, shedding off the self-centric thoughts, they become part of the divine scheme. Then they are content and at peace with the short lifespan on earth.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Structure & Form

Gibran’s “Song of the Flower” consists of seven stanzas comprising of different numbers of lines. Except for the first stanza (containing nine lines), the poem contains quatrains (stanzas consisting of four lines each) and tercets (stanzas having three lines each), alternatively. It is a free-verse poem without any fixed rhyme scheme or meter. The speaker of the poem is a flower talking directly to the audience or humankind as a whole. Therefore, this piece is written from a flower’s point of view, in first-person, making this piece an ideal example of lyric poetry. It is actually Gibran speaking in the entire poem through the poetic persona of a flower.

Rhyme Scheme

“Song of the Flower” was initially written in Arabic. There could be a set rhyming pattern in the original text. However, the translated version does not contain a regular one. On only one occasion, there is rhyming between lines. It occurs in the fifth stanza: “dance” and “grass”.

The poem also contains some internal rhymings between the words “uttered” and “repeated” in line one; “tent” and “carpet” in the fourth line; “Nature”, “daughter”, “Winter” and “Summer” in stanza one. Likewise, readers can find other instances of internal rhyming across the text.

Meter

As “Song of the Flower” is a free-verse poem, there is not any set metrical pattern. The lines mostly contain the rising rhythm of iambs; for instance, the line “At dawn/ I u/-nite with/ the breeze” contains four iambic feet. Hence, it can be said that the overall poem is in iambic meter with a few variations. Let’s have a look at the scansion of a few stanzas from the poem:

At dawn/ I u/-nite with/ the breeze 

To an/-nounce the com/-ing of light

At e/-ven-tide/ I join/ the birds 

In bid/-ding the light/ fare-well.

The plains/ are de/-co-ra/-ted with 

My beau/-ti-ful/ co-lors,/ and the air 

Is scent(e)d/ with my/ frag-rance.

As we can see, stanzas two and three are written in iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter, alternatively. But, this scheme varies in the next lines. For example, the first line of the sixth stanza, “I am/ the lo/-ver’s gift;/ I am/ the wed/-ding wreath,” is in iambic hexameter.

Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

Metaphor

In “Song of the Flower,” metaphor is undoubtedly an important poetic device. Some beautiful examples of metaphorical language can be found in the very first stanza.

  • Firstly, the speaker (the flower) compares itself to a “kind word” of Nature. Implicitly, it is a comparison between the mellow music of nature and the flower’s life.
  • Then, the line, “I am a star fallen from the,” contains another metaphor. Here, the flower is compared to a fallen star.
  • The next line, “Blue tent upon the green carpet,” is an exceptional fusion of imagery and metaphors. The “Blue tent” is nothing other than the sky spreading over the grassland/earth compared to the “green carpet.”
  • The rest of the lines of the first stanza showcase the flower as Nature’s child (another interesting metaphor) fostered by different seasons.
  • In the fourth stanza, “the eyes of Night” is a metaphor for stars, and “only eye of the day” is a metaphorical reference to the sun (which is said quite explicitly).
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Personification

Personification is the assigning of human traits to inanimate beings. In “Song of the Flower,” the flower is given human characteristics of speech and feelings. The flower narrates its life’s events from its own perspective. This can be clearly understood by Gibran’s use of the first-person pronoun “I’. He gives the flower an identity of its own:

I am a kind word uttered and repeated

By the voice of Nature;

I am a star fallen from the

Blue tent upon the green carpet.

Besides, in “Nature,” the use of capitalization hints that it is personified. The same applies to the seasons of Winter (invested with the act of conceiving), Spring (attributed with the act of giving birth), Summer (shown as rearing the flower on its lap), and Autumn (the flower sleeps on its bed).

In the following stanzas, Gibran goes on to personify other inanimate ideas, such as the “breeze,” “Slumber,” “Night,” and “day.” He also personifies the “birds” and invests with the human act of bidding farewell.

Enjambment

When one line runs into the next line to make complete sense, it is called enjambment. This device is used to make readers go through a number of consecutive lines to grasp the idea. This not only heightens the tension but increases readers’ curiosity. For instance, in the first stanza, a single thought spills onto the following line or is added through the use of the semicolon. To be specific, lines 1-2, lines 3-4, lines 5-6, and lines 7-9 are enjambed:

I am a kind word uttered and repeated 

By the voice of Nature;

I am a star fallen from the 

Blue tent upon the green carpet. 

I am the daughter of the elements 

With whom Winter conceived; 

To whom Spring gave birth; I was 

Reared in the lap of Summer and I

Slept in the bed of Autumn.

Anaphora

Anaphora is the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive lines in a specific stanza. In this poem, all the lines of the sixth stanza begin with the phrase “I am,” or the first three lines of the same stanza begin with the phrase “I am the.” It is used to emphasize the speaker’s points.

I am the lover’s gift; I am the wedding wreath; 

I am the memory of a moment of happiness; 

I am the last gift of the living to the dead; 

I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.

Allegory

“Song of the Flower” is an allegorical poem. Gibran uses the allegorical form to convey the moral message hinted at in the parting line of the poem, “This is wisdom which man must learn.” This poem can be read as a beautiful lyric poem describing a flower’s life, but on close reading, it is understandable that the text contains an implied message.

The philosophical message urges readers to think about their own life by comparing theirs to the flower’s life. Like the flower, humans too can live in the moment (or the art of mindfulness) by always looking at the brighter side of things as conveyed through the lines:

But I look up high to see only the light,

And never look down to see my shadow.

This is wisdom which man must learn.

Here, the “light” is a symbol of self-knowledge, awareness, and positivity. In contrast, the “shadow” indicates the ideas where the light of awareness cannot penetrate, such as one’s past, evil motifs, and selfishness. One must learn to be part of the greater scheme of nature. In order to do so, they need to first detach themselves from the “shadow” of ignorance, attachment, and selfishness. Then, the divine light showers over the soul, setting it free from all the self-centric thoughts.

Repetition

It is hard to ignore the repetition of the phrase “I am” or the powerful first-person “I” throughout the poem. The soft yet powerful voice of the flower echoes in readers’ minds. Its voice proclaims its identity, importance, and significance in nature. As the poem reaches the sixth stanza, the flower’s tone becomes more confident, which is evident from the frequent utterance of “I am” at the beginning of consecutive lines.

Antithesis

The ideal example of antithesis is the line, “I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.” Here, two contrasting ideas are used. The only constant is the presence of the flower.

Line-by-Line Explanation & Analysis

Lines 1-4

I am a kind word uttered and repeated

By the voice of Nature;

I am a star fallen from the

Blue tent upon the green carpet.

Flowers are the most beautiful gifts of nature; Kahlil Gibran, in his poem “Song of the Flower,” describes that by saying the flower (the speaker) is born out of Nature’s kindness. It is made from kind words repeated by Nature. So, what does the speaker try to convey? Here, the speaker tries to indicate the music/song of nature. The flower’s life is just another verse in nature’s everlasting, eternal song. Therefore, the “voice of Nature” is a metonym of the song of the world, probably an echo of John Keats’ powerful line, “The Poetry of earth is never dead.”

At first, when the speaker starts narrating her experience, it is hard to figure out whether the speaker is a human being or an intimate idea. But later, through the images used in the first stanza, readers understand that it is a flower talking directly with them. It likens itself to a star that fell from the blue sky (“Blue tent”) onto the green grass (“green carpet”).

It is Gibran’s way of saying how pretty various kinds of flowers are. They are self-sufficient like the sun or the other stars. Like their light never ceases to exist even in daylight, the flowers will be born and decorate the earth’s cover again and again.

Lines 5-9

I am the daughter of the elements

With whom Winter conceived;

To whom Spring gave birth; I was

Reared in the lap of Summer and I

Slept in the bed of Autumn.

In the following lines, the birth of the flower is described in the most romantic way. It is not the “daughter” of only mother Nature. The season of Winter, along with Spring, Summer, and Autumn, rears the flower with affection and care, like foster mothers. This particular flower’s seed was first sown in the winter. It was born in spring and flourished during summer. Finally, it “slept” in autumn.

It is important to note that the poet does not use the word “died.” The flower sleeps in autumn, meaning it will be born again in the coming spring. There is no death for the flower as it will rise again and charm the word with thousands of colors. In this way, Gibran tenderly captures the flower’s life cycle in the first stanza.

Lines 10-13

At dawn I unite with the breeze

To announce the coming of light;

At eventide I join the birds 

In bidding the light farewell.

At dawn, the flower nods its head with the wind as a gesture of welcoming the first light of the morning. At night, the flower dances to the melody of birds as if it is a farewell celebration. After the celebration ends, nature’s choristers (birds) return home to prepare for the following day. In these lines, Gibran uses visual imagery in order to depict the graceful dance of flowers in the wind. He was a keen observer of nature. That’s why he could capture the slight movements or actions of flowers in such a beautiful way. Besides, he depicts the flower in a manner that it seems it is like humans having their own thoughts and emotions motivating their actions.

Lines 14-16

The plains are decorated with

My beautiful colors, and the air

Is scented with my fragrance.

In the third stanza, Gibran presents another vivid imagery. He depicts the plains that look bright and beautiful due to the presence of the bright flower. Here, the speaker (flower) takes a collective stance. It is not possible to decorate an entire landscape with only its colors. Besides, it refers to other flowers blooming there as a singular entity.

Moreover, its presence fills the air with its sweet fragrance. Those who stumble upon these beautiful plains (not physically but mentally) can appreciate how magnificent the scenery looks. Gibran also helps the audience to have a sense of the flower’s fragrance by using olfactory imagery.

Lines 17-20

As I embrace Slumber the eyes of

Night watch over me, and as I

Awaken I stare at the Sun, which is

The only eye of the day.

The fourth stanza of “Song of the Flower” begins with a personification. It can be seen that the first letter of “Slumber” is capitalized, meaning it is personified. Through the opening statement, the flower talks about embracing Slumber. It is a roundabout way of saying how peacefully one can sleep at night. As the speaker has lived the day to the fullest, dancing and celebrating each and every moment, it can sleep so soundly as if Slumber lulls it to rest.

While the flower sleeps at night, the stars (“the eyes of Night”) and the moon watch over it. They protect the flower, like parents. When the morning comes, the sun (“only eye of the day”) is the first to touch its eyelids with its invigorating light. In this way, the flower is awakened, and it gets ready to start a new day.

Lines 21-23

I drink dew for wine and harken to

The voices of the birds, and dance

To the rhythmic swaying of the grass.

The fifth stanza begins with a delicate image. Gibran depicts how dew drops rest on the flower’s petals in the morning. He compares the dew with “wine”. This wine does not inebriate but rejuvenates the flower’s soul.

In the following line, Gibran uses an auditory image of birds chirping. He describes how the life of the flower forms a complete circle. The same cycle repeats each day; in the morning, the birds’ song tells the flower to get ready and play its part. When the wind blows and the grass sways, the flower follows their move.

It is remarkable how Gibran aptly describes the musicality of nature in the line, “To the rhythmic swaying of the grass.” In this way, the poet taps on the everlasting rhythm existing in nature. It never ceases.

Lines 24-27

I am the lover’s gift; I am the wedding wreath;

I am the memory of a moment of happiness;

I am the last gift of the living to the dead;

I am a part of joy and a part of sorrow.

It is one of the most important stanzas in “Song of the Flower.” The lines have a philosophical depth though they seem simple. The flower states its use on different occasions: lovers give each other flowers when they meet, and flowers are used in the wedding wreath. It means the flower does not only mark a beginning but is also present at the unification of lovers.

Thus, the flower becomes part of happy memories. On the flip side, flowers are also used during funerals as parting gifts to the dead. From the speaker’s tone, it can be said that it does not regard death as a frightening event. It is just a doorway to another life. So, when we say the final goodbye, we greet those who are passing away from this world to another with flowers.

In this way, the flower is an integral part of a new beginning and a sad ending. It shares the joys and sorrows of human beings without even thinking about her personal emotions. When one learns how to be part of others’ happiness or sadness, forgetting their own, they become free and wise.

Lines 28-30

But I look up high to see only the light,

And never look down to see my shadow.

This is wisdom which man must learn.

In the last stanza, the flower says that despite being part of both good and bad moments, it chooses to focus more on the brighter side; instead of looking down at its own shadow, it only blooms straight and higher to face the light, a symbol of the ultimate truth. This “light” unleashes the true potential hidden inside one’s soul. Humans should always look at the brighter side of things like the speaker (flower). In this way, Gibran conveys that human beings should always strive to be optimistic and cheerful despite being crestfallen over darker or sadder parts of their lives.

Themes

The important themes of “Song of the Flower” include the art of living in the present, mindfulness, optimism, nature, and compassion. Firstly, this poem explores the art of living life in the present through the metaphor of the flower. Gibran advises readers to accept life along with all its trials and tribulations. Though we only have a short lifespan, we should make the most of it.

Secondly, the poet talks about the role of optimism in human lives. Life should always be seen in a hopeful light. This, of course, does not mean that dark times would not come, but one’s inner faith should be strong enough to ignore the negativity. In this way, one becomes spiritually free. Just like the flower lives in the moment embracing all the aspects of nature, humans too should accept life in its entirety.

Historical Background

The poem “Song of the Flower” was first published in Kahlil Gibran’s Arabic collection Dam’ah wa ibtisamah in 1914. This collection was translated into English in 1950 by Alfred A. Knopf as A Tear and a Smile. In 1913, Nasib Arida and Abd al-Masih Haddad established the Arabic magazine Al-Funoon (“The Arts”). Gibran was a frequent contributor to the magazine. In 1914, the editor of Al-Funoon collected 56 writings of Gibran published previously in the newspaper columns under the title Dam’ah wa ibtisamah. “Song of the Flower” appears in section XXIII (23) of the collection.

Kahlil Gibran was one of the greatest American poets of the 20th-century. He had equal respect for all religions with a strong belief in individual freedom and equality. His works reflect his sense of justice as well as the awe and wonder he always felt towards the mystical nature.

Gibran saw difficult times in his own life, struggling with personal issues, poverty, and immigrating to another country. He always worked hard on his art to express all the goodness there is in the world so that people could find inspiration, hope, and courage.

Questions and Answers

Explain the poem “Song of the Flower” XXIII.

Kahlil Gibran’s inspirational lyric poem “Song of the Flower,” appearing in section XXIII of A Tear and a Smile (1950), is a profound account of a flower to humankind. This piece delves deeper into the art of living and how one should lead one’s life without any emotional baggage clinging on the back. In order to live to the lees, we must learn how a flower, despite its short life, lives to the fullest, embracing each and every moment. It becomes part of humans’ joys and sorrow, forgetting its own emotions. If we adopt the same principle, there won’t be any regrets in our life.

What is the wisdom, according to the poet of “Song of the Flower,” that human beings must learn from the flower?

The “wisdom” or moral message of the poem is present in the last stanza. Here, the flower describes how it always sees only the “light,” a symbol of truth and positivity. It never looks down at the shadow behind. Life is ahead of us, not in the shadows of our past experiences. The “shadow” helps us to mature. With the experiences of the past and enlightened by the spirit of nature, we must move on and become part of the divine scheme of things like the flower.

What is the theme of the poem “Song of the Flower”?

Gibran’s “Song of the Flower” incorporates a number of themes that include optimism, life, living in the present, objectivity, spirituality, and, most importantly, nature. This poem is about an innocent flower describing its journey from the beginning to the end. It describes how it lives to the fullest by becoming an integral part of nature, enjoying each moment of short life.

Who is the speaker in the poem “Song of the Flower”?

The speaker of the poem is a flower that is personified as Nature’s daughter. It opens its dewy eyelids when the first rays of sunshine softly touch upon them. Then it sways in the breeze and dances to the tune of birds. At dusk, it bids goodbye to the day and goes to sleep. Then the stars in the night sky watch over it.

How is the flower the “last gift of the living to the death”?

When one dies, flowers are offered as a token of respect and love to the one who passes from this world to another. In this way, the flower becomes the “last gift” of the living to the ones who are no more.

What is the mood of the poem “Song of the Flower”?

The mood of the poem is calm and happy. It reflects the mental state of the speaker (the flower), who lives to the fullest without caring about its past or future. It lives in the present moment by appreciating each moment of its short life.

How are the seasons related to the life of the flower?

In the first stanza of “Song of the Flower,” the flower describes how it was conceived in winter and born in spring. It grew in summer and finally took its final rest in autumn. In this way, Gibran shows how the seasons fosters the flower with their affection and love.

What is the kind word that is uttered and repeated?

The “kind word” that is uttered and repeated by Nature’s voice is the flower itself. Gibran metaphorically compares the flower to a sound, a short yet significant verse in Nature’s never-ending song.

What role does the flower play in the life of humans?

The flower plays a significant role in the life of humans. It is used on both happy and sad occasions. According to the speaker, flowers (red roses) are given as a token of love, vibrant flowers are used in happy moments, and white flowers adorn funerals and solemn occasions. Similarly, humans should also accept life with all its good and bad aspects and try to face the “light” despite the darkness. Humans can learn this lesson from the flower.

What does the flower do at the eventide?

At the eventide, the flower dances to the tune of birds as a gesture of bidding the daylight farewell.

What does the expression “Blue tent” and “green carpet” imply?

The expressions “Blue tent” and “green carpet” metaphorically refer to the blue sky and a meadow/grassland, respectively.

What watches over the flower when she embraces Slumber?

When the flower embraces Slumber, the stars, referred to as the “eyes of Night,” watch over her.

Why does the flower unite with the breeze?

The flower unites with the breeze to welcome the coming of the daylight at dawn. It nods with the mellow breeze and to the tune of birds in order to celebrate the beginning of a new day.


Similar Poems about Flowers

  • Flower on the Road” by Chitra Padmanabhan — This poem presents the conversation of two springtime flowers who talk about their significance to human beings.
  • Listening” by Amy Lowell — This piece explores the musicality of nature and its impression on the soul.
  • The Awakening” by James Weldon Johnson — In this poem, a speaker talks about his spiritual awakening by comparing himself to a rose and God to a bee.
  • A child said, What is the grass?” by Walt Whitman — This powerful poem contains Whitman’s take on life, death, and nature.


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