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For Epiphany – T.S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi

We will celebrate Epiphany at liturgy this Sunday, but today is the actual day. With that in mind, I present you with a poem from T.S. Eliot called, Journey of the Magi. Eliot converted to Christianity, he became an Anglican; this poem was written after his conversion. H/T to friend of the blog, Ginny Kubitz Moyer, (author of Mary and Me) for reminding me of this poem today. Her blog,  Random Acts of Momness is a must-read site for me.

Journey of the Magi

‘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, sorefooted, 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 arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might 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

(You can listen to Eliot read his own poem here. Thanks again to Ginny for this link too!)


5 Responses

  1. beuatiful, Fran! Thank you 🙂

  2. A blessed Epiphany to you, Fran. Thanks to you and Ginny for the link. Hearing the poet read this poem gives me chills. Such powerful words.
    I’d be honored if you would look at my earlier Epiphany posts:

  3. Dina, wow – what beautiful posts. I love how you reach across every boundary of country and faith as you draw people together on your blog! Brilliant. Thank you – todah!

    And how did I miss going to Abu Gosh when I was in Israel? It is my dream to return, I will visit then. Maybe with you!

    • Ahalan, welcome! I am always happy to go to Abu Ghosh. After Mass we can go have lunch at one of the famous Arab humus restaurants. 🙂

      Thanks. Yes, it is also a good way for me to learn more about the various religious groups by posting about them. Jerusalem is so rich in her diversity.

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