Thursday, December 1, 2016

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,
very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted,

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,
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
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

With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

---T.S. Eliot, 1927  (c) by owner

* A foreshadowing of the three crosses, Jesus's and the two thieves
**Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver; the soldiers gambling for his cloak
**Christ came to suffer death for our sins.  Death was haunting even the birth.

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