December 22, 2016
Dear Friends,

Once again, this year my Christmas reflection is T.S. Eliot’s poem Journey of the Magi. Eliot retells the story of the Magi who travelled to Palestine to visit the newborn Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew. This narrative, told from the point of view of one of the magi, expresses themes of alienation and feelings of powerlessness in a world that has changed. Many would resonate with that today. For all of us, however, the message of Christmas is a sign and an assurance of hope. We need to remind each other about that from time to time…..
Many kind regards and every good wish for Christmas 2016. May 2017 be a year of grace for all.


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 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.

2 thoughts on “Journey of the Magi

  1. John you couldn’t choose a better poem. One of my all-time favorites too. I always read it at this time, along with “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by D. Thomas, and R.M Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” on the subject of the meaning of Christmas. Here’s a toast to a Merry Christmas to you and your family. Take a kayak ride down the Dyle or something exciting.

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