On Epiphany:

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Journey of the Magi
by T.S. Eliot

"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, sore-footed, 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 gong 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 arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may 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 lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have 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.

I don't know how any of us, as committed Christians, can read this poem and NOT nod our heads in silent agreement. Don't you feel that you hear the voices singing in your ears--the voices of the world--"saying that this was all folly"?

And the last stanza is perfect. Once we have stepped out and met the Christ, never again can we be "at home" here in our world. I echo the voice of the magi: Oh yes, I would make this journey again, oh yes. It is the only journey worth making. But it is a death for us. And no death comes painlessly.

But what a wonder follows!

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Today is Epiphany from such small hands on January 6, 2005 10:07 AM

Mama T of the Summa Mamas calls to mind the importance of this feast day with the words of T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.? What did the manifestation of Jesus, the Messiah, to the Gentiles signify? “Hard and bitter Read More


I LOVE that poem for all the reasons you mention and also for its reality. I can really envision the journey and what they gave up and endured on their quest.

You beat me to it! I was planning to post this same poem myself. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Letting go of the old ways is indeed "hard and bitter agony." Thank you for posting!



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This page contains a single entry by MamaT published on January 6, 2005 8:09 AM.

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