My Friend

My Friend

by Khalil Gibran

My friend, I am not what I seem.  Seeming is but a garment I wear—a
care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee
from my negligence.

The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and
therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

I would not have thee believe in what I say nor trust in what I
do—for my words are naught but thy own thoughts in sound and my
deeds thy own hopes in action.

When thou sayest, “The wind bloweth eastward,” I say, “Aye it doth
blow eastward”; for I would not have thee know that my mind doth
not dwell upon the wind but upon the sea.

Thou canst not understand my seafaring thoughts, nor would I have
thee understand.  I would be at sea alone.

When it is day with thee, my friend, it is night with me; yet even
then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills and of
the purple shadow that steals its way across the valley; for thou
canst not hear the songs of my darkness nor see my wings beating
against the stars—and I fain would not have thee hear or see.  I
would be with night alone.

When thou ascendest to thy Heaven I descend to my Hell—even then
thou callest to me across the unbridgeable gulf, “My companion, my
comrade,” and I call back to thee, “My comrade, my companion”—for
I would not have thee see my Hell.  The flame would burn thy eyesight
and the smoke would crowd thy nostrils.  And I love my Hell too
well to have thee visit it.  I would be in Hell alone.

Thou lovest Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; and I for thy sake
say it is well and seemly to love these things.  But in my heart
I laught at thy love.  Yet I would not have thee see my laughter.
I would laugh alone.

My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art
perfect—and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously.  And
yet I am mad.  But I mask my madness.  I would be mad alone.

My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee
understand?  My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand
in hand.

Summary of My Friend

  • Popularity of “My Friend”: This poem was written by Khalil Gibran, a distinguished Lebanese American writer, poet, and visual artist. The poem ‘My Friend’ is popular for its themes of perception and reality. It was first published in 1918. The poem speaks about two friends having diverse approaches toward life. It also accounts how the speaker hides his real character, keeps his isolation and madness to himself. Perhaps, the speaker doesn’t want to see his friend upset.
  • “My Friend”, As a Representative of Duality: The speaker states that he is different from his friend. He addresses his friend and says he has covered his inner self with a garment to protect himself from his friend’s questions. His friend seems to be optimistic, positive, and lively. However, the speaker lives in the center of unapproachable silence that never allows him to comprehend what his friend says to him. The speaker never allows his friend to know his sufferings or reveal his tormented and devastated inner self to his friend. Moreover, he laughs when his friend admires the transient beauty and love of the world. Despite possessing a miserable soul, the speaker walks happily with his friend on the same track. It is admirable to see that in spite of his troubles; the speaker tries to make his friend happy.
  • Major Themes in “My Friend”: Loneliness, friendship, and art of masking are the major themes of this poem. On a surface level, the speaker talks their contrasting personalities, and yet stays with his friend. However, on a deeper note, the speaker illustrates how we manage to hide our innermost selves from the world and even from ourselves. Throughout the poem, he talks about the ideal self we present to the world and hides our imperfections from others.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “My Friend”

Literary devices are tools that the writer uses to convey his emotions, ideas, and themes to make their text more appealing to the reader. Khalil Gibran has also employed some literary devices in this poem to narrate how he is different from his friend. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been stated below.

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it moves over to the next line. For example,

“I would not have thee believe in what I say nor trust in what I
do—for my words are naught but thy own thoughts in sound and my
deeds thy own hopes in action.”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. “Hell” symbolizes discontent of the speaker and “garment” is the symbol of fake appearance we maintain to hide our true character.
  2. Litotes: It is a figure of speech in which a negative statement is used to affirm a positive sentiment. For example, “My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear.”
  3. Imagery: Imagery is used to perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand”, “care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence” and “The flame would burn thy eyesight and the smoke would crowd thy nostrils.”
  4. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /ou/ in “My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art” and the sound of /ee/ in “perfect—and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously.”
  5. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /m/ in “And yet I am mad. But I mask my madness.  I would be mad alone.” and the sound of /w/ in “My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand”.
  6. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, ‘noontides’ in the sixth stanza is personified as if the noontides can dance like humans.

“Then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills and of
The purple shadow that steals its way across the valley.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “My Friend”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are ten stanzas in this poem, and each varies in length.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Tercet: A tercet is a three-lined stanza borrowed from Hebrew poetry. Here, third, fourth and ninth stanzas are tercets.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used to tell friends that they don’t have to do the same things, just because they are friends. Everyone has their own personalities.

“My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee
understand?  My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand
in hand.”