Journey of the Magi is a 43-line poem written in 1927 by T. S. Eliot (1888–1965). In the poem, Eliot retells the story of the wise men (mágoi in Greek) who travelled to Palestine to visit the newborn Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. It is a narrative, told from the point of view of one of the “magi,” that expresses themes of alienation and a feeling of powerlessness in a world that has changed.

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.

My very best wishes for Christmas 2020 and a hopeful 2021!


8 thoughts on “THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

  1. Blessed Christmas, Jack. Great depth in this poem. So much to contemplate. We are like the magi, searching, gaining a graphic picture of the reality of humanity as we journey through life, and facing up to our own sinful ways. Birth and death become one.
    Peace and love, Sue

  2. Dear Jack,
    How thought provoking. Such a different perspective on the Christmas story. But it does remind us that this time of year commemorates a real, historical event. Are we not thankful that the birth of this little baby occurred in the REAL world with all of its complexities? Blessings to you and Joske and all of those whom you have touched with your inspiring thoughts.

    1. Yes Frank….Jesus was and remains real in our very real world..God is with us.
      The Goodnews is not fake news…..Warmest regards and every good wish for Christmas and the New Year.

  3. Thanks so much, Jack, for your post today! I love it more each year. We are like the Magi lead by a force, a beckoning, a luring, an invitation to a place we do not see and on a journey often difficult. But the star of hope shines in our hearts and enlivens our steps.

  4. Thank you, Jack! Sending warmest wishes for a Blessed Christmas Holiday and Peace, Health, and Happiness in the New Year.

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