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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

#3 G.I.F.T. Challenge

This is another of my favorite poems. I love T.S. Eliot, and this one has a much different affect from many of his others; while full of imagery and symbolism, it is much more straightforward in narrative form.

The Journey of the Magi

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the 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 darkness,
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 long 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 had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, 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.

--T. S. Eliot


  1. I love "Journey of the Magi." I think I re-read it every Christmas, when things are going mad with the shopping and thre crowds and all. It has never failed to remind me of what Christmas was meant to signify, a death of something, a birth of something.

  2. I don't think I've ever read anything by T.S. Eliot! This poem makes me want to get a book of his poems to enjoy. Thank you so much for posting this!!

  3. Dark Orpheus - I read it often and
    aloud. It has so much to offer, doesn't it?

    Heather - This poem was written after his conversion; I love the ones before, too. I hope you do try him on for size!

  4. What a lovely poem, Jenclair! I have to confess I haven't read too much by TS Eliot, but have read about him. I remember being quite tickled to read he married his 30 year old secretary when he was 70! Like Heather, this poem has interested me in reading more of his poetry. Thanks!

  5. Yes, his first wife was committed to a mental hospital. She died in 1947 and 20 years later , he married again.

    There is such a variety in his poetry, from The Waste Land to the Four Quartets to Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats! My favorites are The Journey of the Magi, The Hollow Men, and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.