Poem

Journey Of The Magi

June 24, 2013

TS ELIOT wrote this poem in 1927. I think it is one of the best Christmas poems. Read it outloud, slowly, and se what you find. Note the voices.
There are some who stumble on Eliots Christianity, but that should not be so. If you are wondering about Eliot, as a writer, read my essay about him in JOURNALISM Dec 2008, written for the Guardian. A really excellent critical study is Denis Donoghue, WORDS ALONE.
But most important here is the poem.


A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the dark-
Ness,
And three trees on the low sky.
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a log time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our palaces, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.