The seemingly disparate articles in the September '06 issue on Lebanon and the book reviews on James Perrin Warren's newly published John Burroughs and the Place of Nature
were not so disparate after all—at least for me. Burroughs was a strong admirer of Emerson, as was Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), the poet and prose writer laureate of Lebanon who wrote such bestsellers as The Prophet
and Broken Wings
. I spent my early high school years (post-World War II) in Lebanon and Syria, and on school trips into the high Lebanon we would, on occasion, go by Gibran's birthplace in the town of Bsherri, near the famous tall cedars. It's also a place of tall peaks (9,000 to 10,000 feet), deep ravines, and lush valleys—a virtual Shangri-la. Gibran wrote in both Arabic (his native tongue) and English. He admired the early Arab poets and philosophers like Averroes, Al Farid, and Avicenna.
He was also a studier of the world's religions and he felt that there was enough mysticism in Islam and his own Maronite Christianity that these two religions were compatible. And in some of his writings he spoke equally of mosques, churches, and synagogues.
Gibran settled in the US, but much of his writing in a compendium of his works (900 pages of it), The Treasured Writing of Kahlil Gibran
, put together by Castle Books, reflects upon Lebanon often. He was writing the land—his land of Lebanon.
This is mindful of the theme at the recent SUNY Oneonta conference on John Burroughs in June of this year, where James Perrin Warren and Ed Renahan (also a Burroughs biographer) led a panel on Burroughs writing the land—his land, the Catskills.
—Al Allen, Saugerties