irish i may

Sunday, January 2, 2011

25 Poems of Christmas: January 2

It is the observed date of Epiphany, and we are now near the end of Christmastide.  For the Loia family it has been a most satisfactory holiday season, but I feel, like I usually do at the end of Christmas break, a little melancholy.  I don't want to take our tree down quite yet and it is still so fresh and green!  Perhaps I can convince my husband that it ought to be a Valentine's Day tree!

I hope you enjoy this poem.  It is a little longer and denser than my other selections, but it is very appropriate and moving.  It is from the perspective of one of the Magi, now an old man, telling how his encounter with the Christ Child changed him.  Once a man taking a difficult, but temporary journey he became a "stranger and sojourner' on this earth.  

Journey of the Magi
by TS Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, 
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the 
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and 
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 
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all 
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, 
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a 
     temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of 
With a running stream and a water-mill
     beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in 
     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 imformation, and so
     we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment
     too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say)

All this was a long time ago, I 
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, 
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
But no longer at ease here, in the old 
With an alien people clutching their 
I should be glad of another death.

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