There was a beautiful and fragrant violet who lived placidly amongst her friends, and swayed happily amidst the other flowers in a solitary garden. One morning, as her crown was embellished with beads of dew, she lifted her head and looked about; she saw a tall and handsome rose standing proudly and reaching high into space, like a burning torch upon an emerald lamp.
The violet opened her blue lips and said, “What an unfortunate am I among these flowers, and how humble is the position I occupy in their presence! Nature has fashioned me to be short and poor. I live very close to the earth and I cannot raise my head toward the blue sky, or turn my face to the sun, as the roses do.”
And the rose heard her neighbor’s words; she laughed and commented, “How strange is your talk! You are fortunate, and yet you cannot understand your fortune. Nature has bestowed upon you fragrance and beauty which she did not grant to any other. Cast aside your thoughts and be contented, and remember that he who humbles himself will be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be crushed.”
The violet answered, “You are consoling me because you have that I craved. You seek to embitter me with the meaning that you are great. How painful is the preaching of the fortunate to the heart of the miserable! And how severe is the strong when he stands as advisor among the weak!”
And Nature heard the conversation of the violet and the rose; she approached and said, “What has happened to you, my daughter violet? You have been humble and sweet in all your deeds and words. Has greed entered your heart and numbed your senses?” In a pleading voice, the violet answered her, saying, “Oh great and merciful mother, full of love and sympathy, I beg you, with all my heart and soul, to grant my request and allow me to be a rose for one day.”
And Nature responded, “you know not what you are seeking; you are unaware of the concealed disaster behind your blind ambition. If you were a rose you would be sorry, and repentance would avail you but naught.” The violet insisted, “Change me into a tall rose, for I wish to lift my head high with pride; and regardless of my fate, it will be my own doing.” Nature yielded, saying, “Oh ignorant and rebellious violet, I will grant your request. But if calamity befalls you, your complaint must be to yourself.”
And Nature stretched forth her mysterious and magic finger and touched the roots of the violet, who immediately turned into a tall rose; rising above all other flowers in the garden.
At eventide the sky became thick with black clouds, and the raging elements disturbed the silence of existence with thunder, and commenced to attack the garden, sending forth a great rain and strong winds. The tempest tore the branches and uprooted the plants and broke the stems of the tall flowers, sparing only the little ones who grew close to the friendly earth. That solitary garden suffered greatly from the belligerent skies, and when the storm calmed and the sky cleared, all the flowers were laid waste and none of them had escaped the wrath of Nature except the clan of small violets, hiding by the wall of the garden.
Having lifted her head and viewed the tragedy of the flowers and trees, one of the violet maidens smiled happily and called to here companions, saying, “See what the tempest has done to the haughty flowers!” Another violet said, “We are small, and live close to the earth, but we are safe from the wrath of the skies.” And a third one added, “Because we are poor in height the tempest is unable to subdue us.”
At that moment the queen of violets saw by her side the converted violet, hurled to earth by the storm and distorted upon the wet grass like a limp soldier in a battle field. The queen of the violets lifted her head and called to her family, saying, “Look, my daughters, and meditate upon that which Greed has done to the violet who became a proud rose for one day. Let the memory of this scene be a reminder of your good fortune.”
And the dying rose moved and gathered the remnants of her strength, and quietly said, “You are contented and meek dullards; I have never feared the tempest. Yesterday I, too, was satisfied and contented with Life, but Contentment has acted as a barrier between my existence and the tempest of Life, confining me to a sickly and sluggish peace and tranquility of mind. I could have lived the same life you are living now by clinging with fear to the earth. I could have waited for winter to shroud me with snow and deliver me to Death, who will surely claim all violets. I am happy now because I have probed outside my little world into the mystery of the Universe. . . something which you have not yet done.
“I could have overlooked Greed, whose nature is higher than mine, but as I hearkened to the silence of the night, I heard the heavenly world talking to this earthly world, saying, ‘Ambition beyond existence is the essential purpose of our being.’ At that moment my spirit revolted and my heart longed for a position higher than my limited existence. I realized that the abyss cannot hear the song of the stars, and at that moment I commenced fighting against my smallness and craving for that which did not belong to me, until my rebelliousness turned into a great power, and my longing into a creating will. . . . Nature, who is the great object of our deeper dreams, granted my request and changed me into a rose with her magic fingers.”
The rose became silent for a moment, and in a weakening voice, mingled with pride and achievement, she said, “I have lived one day as a proud rose; I have existed for a time like a queen; I have looked at the Universe from behind the eyes of the rose; I have heard the whisper of the firmament through the ears of the rose and touched the folds of Light’s garment with rose petals. Is there any here who can claim such honor?”
Having thus spoken, she lowered her head, and with a choking voice she gasped, “I shall die now, for my souls has attained its goal. I have finally extended my knowledge to a world beyond the narrow cavern of my birth. This is the design of Life. . . . This is the secret of Existence.” Then the rose quivered, slowly folded her petals, and breathed her last with a heavenly smile upon her lips. . . a smile of fulfillment of hope and purpose in Life. . . a smile of victory. . . a God’s smile.
Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese painter, poet, essayist and philosopher. Born in an isolated village in Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, he was destined to spend most of his life away from his beloved motherland. As he turned twelve, his mother took them to the USA, where he started his formal education.