For Christmas Day I shared with you my favourite Christmas poem, so for Epiphany (Little Christmas/Eastern Christmas) I would like to share with you my favourite Epiphany poem: T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi".
It is a wonderful piece revealing the hardship of the magi's journey, the challenges they faced from those who did not understand and their realisation that everything has changed: the old way is gone, it is dead - the birth of the Christ is the death of the old world. That has personal implications for all of us. Discovering Christ, embracing him, means that we too must die, our old life must die, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel. But it is death that brings a new life - Eliot alludes to the death and resurrection of Jesus here.
Please find the text below, but I have also included a recording of Eliot reciting the poem - it is marvellous, it opens up the poem, so you might want to listen to the recording first.
Happy feast day. And remember, it is still Christmas until next Sunday! Keep celebrating.
The 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 kiking 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.
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