Journey of the Magi
T. S. Eliot is widely considered as the greatest poet of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his philosophical poem ‘The Waste Land’ which describes the meaninglessness of the modern civilization. The ‘Journey of the Magi’ is based upon a biblical story. It describes the journey of the three wise men so as to witness the birth of Jesus Christ. The word Magi is a permanent plural standing for the three wise kings of the eastern world who travelled to Bethlehem so as to witness the birth of Jesus Christ. Permanent plurals like ‘Magi’ do not have a singular form. Another example for this kind of noun is ‘police’ which means the Police Department and not a single policeman.
The poem is written in the form a dramatic monologue spoken by one of the three wise kings. The Magi witnessed a star in the sky and guessed that it was the sign of something important going to happen. The star began to move and the Magi decided to follow it so as to reach the place where the important event was going to happen. It was a long journey and both the weather and the route were hazardous. From the very beginning of the journey, the Magi encounters various difficulties. The hazards hidden on the way shows the spiritual nature of the journey. All spiritual journeys are meant to be tough.
The difficult journey
Being kings, the Magi travelled in a large group with many camels and horses moving in a caravan. The camels are usually capable of adjusting with the toughest kind of journeys in the desert. But this journey was so difficult that even the camels began to make complaints. Some of them developed sore feet and others showed signs of disobedience by lying down in the melting snow. The magi had good patience but sometimes even they felt regrets about the wisdom of launching such a long and uncertain pilgrimage. The magi travelled across extremely unfamiliar and barbarian areas of the earth. They went by summer palaces on slopes and terraces of complicated nature. In some wayside shops, exotic silken girls were found selling sherbet to the travellers.
The hardship of the journey began to affect everyone in the caravan. The camel drivers started cursing and grumbling and some of them lost their patience and began running away from the group because the journey went on and on for several days. Some of the camel men wanted more alcohol and demanded even prostitutes. Sometimes it was difficult to find shelter in the night and so the group camped in the desert with tents and such facilities. The weather was extremely cold and sometimes, the night-fires went out because of the cold wind. The caravan passed through many cities and villages of the eastern world. In many cities, the people behaved badly to the Magi. Even in the villages, the people were not very hospitable in their approach. Some of them even tried to exploit the group by charging high prices for food and accommodation. The negative attitude of the native compelled the Magi to travel only in the night time. So they lost most their sleep and when they slept in snatches, they were haunted by nightmares and strange ‘voices’ which warned them that they were heading for a futile end.
==Temperate Valley==Finally their arrived at a temperate valley on one fine morning. They could feel the smell of vegetation and it was a signal of an oasis which was a great relief after such a long journey across the deserts. They also saw a running stream, a water-mill, three trees and an old white horse. The three tress represent the three crosses on Calvary where Jesus Christ was crucified along with two thieves. The old white horse is a reference to the Revelation in the Bible. Very soon they entered the oasis and reached an inn where six hands where dicing for pieces of silver. This is a reference to Judas Iscariot who cheated Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver.
Reaching the end
The aim of the journey was still unfulfilled. They conducted enquiries about any important happening around the inn, but nobody could give them any useful direction. So they continued their journey and reached at their target after another stretch of travelling. When they finally reached Bethlehem, the Magi were not fully satisfied. They were in a dazed and confused condition. They came and witnessed the birth of Jesus Christ and even gave Him the customary gifts. But they were confused whether this was really a birth or a death. The birth of Jesus Christ meant not only the birth of a new religion but also the death of the old pagan religions of the Magi. The magi were extremely confused because they couldn’t come in terms with the death of their old faiths. Being wise kings, they were also spiritual leaders of their communities and so they had the responsibility of upholding the faiths of their people. But now, since they were the chosen people to witness the birth of Jesus Christ, they will have to abandon their old faiths so as to embrace Christianity. So the Magi began to get prepared for their deaths which was the only method to get reborn into perfect persons.