Once again my Christmas reflection is “Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965).
Eliot was Born in St. Louis, Missouri but moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25. He became a British citizen in 1927. In the late 1950s, Eliot described his religious beliefs as “a Catholic cast of mind, a Calvinist heritage, and a Puritanical temperament.” “Ash-Wednesday” is the first long poem written by Eliot, after his 1927 conversion to Anglicanism. He also wrote “Journey of the Magi” in 1927.
Thomas Stearns Eliot remains my favorite poet. I don’t have a Calvinist puritanical temperament but I do resonate with him in many ways. My inspiration for this blog came from his 1942 poetic observation: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
Warmest regards to all and every good wish for Christmas and the New Year. May we all make good beginnings in 2023.
PS I will be away from my computer until the second week of January.
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.