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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the 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 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 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 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.
 
T.S. Eliot.
 
T.S. Eliot in 1923
What an utterly magnificent poem. So many bad poets (like me,for example) use blank verse (i.e., unrhyming verse) because they just can't write poetry. But this is quite simply a masterpiece. A triumph. It is a poem about his own journey from agnosticism to faith, and is filled with symbols:  the pieces of silver, the three trees, the tavern with vine leaves over the lintel.

Sometimes I find a piece of writing so incomparably beautiful that I just have to share it.   And I'm sorry to say I didn't know this until my lady mentioned it last night.  But, then, I come upon it afresh; it is new to me, and therefore the more precious.

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