"You ask me how I became a madman? That is how it happened: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found that a ll my masks were stolen."
In ancient Greece and Rome stage actors used to wear masks. The Latin word for "Mask" was "Person", derived from the Latin "per", meaning "through which" and "son" meaning "sound".
So the word "Person", or "that through which the sound comes", used to refer to the mask worn by an actor as he performed his role or character on stage.
Life is a the ultimate stage and, in every day life, we usually don different masks, or personae, to match the different roles we play during our many social interactions.
In "The Madman", Khalil Gibran tells us that all his masks were stolen. He has no more roles to play. So whatever we are going to hear will be the voice of his true self.
Khalil Gibran is telling us the truth. For the poetry of The Madman is raw, honest, and deeply human. Gibran is reaching deep into his subconscious, digging for precious pearls of wisdom and presenting them to us natural, unpolished.
The Madman is entirely of the East, with no shading of Western thought or content. It is an expression of a passionate inner life not yet restrained or controlled.
Here, Gibran registers fully his sense of aloneness. That sense of aloneness that remained with him always. He was an alien to this planet, to that time and that scene, yet he always battled to reduce the distance between himself and the rest of us.
The Madman is a small book. It is roughly 70 pages long but it is short by necessity. Any longer would be too much. It has so much beauty and wisdom crammed into those pages that it feels as if it is a complete philosophical tome of epic length.
The Madman reminds me of Nietzsche's Zarathustra or Hesse's Steppenwolf. If you are in a ponderous mood and wish for a book that inspires reflection, The Madman is an excellent choice.