I thought a change from my usual ramblings seemed appropriate this Christmas week. So, I am reprinting one of my favourite poems, by T.S. Eliot. Here, he retells the story of how the Magi travelled to Bethlehem from the point of view of one of them.
(Contrary to popular belief, nobody knows their names or how many there were exactly. Tradition assumes only three because there were three gifts but there could have been just two, or more likely seven, being the mystical number. It was dangerous to travel long distances in small groups in those days and often men were hired as protectors of the caravan. However, sometimes that manoeuvre backfired as the hired men could be part of a bandit gang , infiltrating the caravan to help rob it.)
As always with Eliot there is great imagery and meaning; especially the phrase ‘And three trees on the low sky’ in the second verse, that hints at so much more than a birth.
It’s been another circle around the Sun that’s maybe been accompanied by joys and sorrows. May your next one be peaceful and joyous. Happy Christmas to all of you.
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.
P.S. As a Christmas bonus, my novel An Element Of Time has been reduced on Amazon Kindle to only 99p for a limited period only. So, grab it while you can. It’s part of my Gold Of The Magi trilogy.
No Kindle? No worries. Just download the Kindle App for your tablet, phone or computer and you can then read the books just as easily.