The journey of the Magi

by Kevin Birnbaum

The_Magi_Journeying_James_TissotThe Magi Journeying by James Tissot (1836-1902)

For Sunday’s feast of Epiphany, do yourself a favor and go here to listen to a recording of T.S. Eliot reading his wonderful short poem “Journey of the Magi.” It starts out like this:

‘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 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.

And it only gets better. The third and final stanza is quite thought-provoking, and haunting. Read and listen to the rest here.