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A Poem by Khalil Gibran : The Criminal V


The Criminal V

A young man of strong body, weakened by hunger, sat on the walker’s portion of the
street stretching his hand toward all who passed, begging and repeating his hand
toward all who passed, begging and repeating the sad song of his defeat in life, while
suffering from hunger and from humiliation.

When night came, his lips and tongue were parched, while his hand was still as empty
as his stomach.

He gathered himself and went out from the city, where he sat under a tree and wept
bitterly. Then he lifted his puzzled eyes to heaven while hunger was eating his inside,
and he said, “Oh Lord, I went to the rich man and asked for employment, but he
turned me away because of my shabbiness; I knocked at the school door, but was
forbidden solace because I was empty- handed; I sought any occupation that would
give me bread, but all to no avail. In desperation I asked alms, but They worshippers
saw me and said “He is strong and lazy, and he should not beg.”

“Oh Lord, it is Thy will that my mother gave birth unto me, and now the earth offers
me back to You before the Ending.”

His expression then changed. He arose and his eyes now glittered in determination. He
fashioned a thick and heavy stick from the branch of the tree, and pointed it toward
the city, shouting, “I asked for bread with all the strength of my voice, and was
refused. Not I shall obtain it by the strength of my muscles! I asked for bread in the
name of mercy and love, but humanity did not heed. I shall take it now in the name of

The passing years rendered the youth a robber, killer and destroyer of souls; he
crushed all who opposed him; he amassed fabulous wealth with which he won himself
over to those in power. He was admired by colleagues, envied by other thieves, and
feared by the multitudes.

His riches and false position prevailed upon the Emir to appoint him deputy in that city
– the sad process pursued by unwise governors. Thefts were then legalized; oppression
was supported by authority; crushing of the weak became commonplace; the throngs
curried and praised.

Thus does the first touch of humanity’s selfishness make criminals of the humble, and
make killers of the sons of peace; thus does the early greed of humanity grow and
strike back at humanity a thousand fold!


Khalil Gibran

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