Interpretation of Defeat by Kahlil Gibran

Welcome to an interpretation of one of my favorite poems, Defeat by Kahlil Gibran!

Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;

You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,

And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory.

Summarizing the first three lines, you can tell this is a description of the main character’s folly that rendered him isolated and apathetic to any consequences of all defeat, which tastes sweeter than the glory of a thousand triumphs. He does not blame defeat, he rejoices in it because it’s a better teacher than any victory.

The start of the poem “Defeat, my Defeat” tells me that Khalil is actually triumphant over his own defeat through this line of thinking; made clearer if you were to tell yourself “defeat your defeat”.

Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,

Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot

And not to be trapped by withering laurels.

And in you I have found aloneness

And the joy of being shunned and scorned.

Through defeat, I know myself, better than others could tell of me; and once one has gone through defeat, one gains a sort of self-esteem or confidence. “And not to be trapped by withering laurels” – I believe this line is expressing the sorrow that may hold someone back once defeated. The last two lines remind me of times where I felt I’ve failed: I found that aloneness where I could contemplate my mistakes; I found a hope that while I may not be good enough now,  I could work to reach my goals.


Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,

In your eyes I have read

That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,

And to be understood is to be leveled down,

And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness

And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.

Khalil goes through a few successes and describes that they could end up failures; I sense time moving in this verse, where the fruit reaches its fullness only to be consumed.


Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,

You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences,

And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,

And urging of seas,

And of mountains that burn in the night,

And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

This verse takes me on an adventure with defeat; the beating of wings representing the mode of travel, or perhaps symbolizing the first flight of a bird off their nest.


Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,

You and I shall laugh together with the storm,

And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,

And we shall stand in the sun with a will,

And we shall be dangerous.

Here we see defeat, again, playing the companion, the brave guide through all these terrors and the motivation.

This is quite the inspiring poem, describing what would usually deter someone from continuing on the purpose or their mission.