Journey of the Magi: TS Eliot, James Taylor and CP


To help prepare for the celebration of Epiphany this coming Sunday, here are three reflections on the Magi's experience: one by a famous poet, one by a fine song writer and one by a blogging pastor...

Journey Of The Magi
by T.S. Eliot

'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.

Home By Another Way
by James Taylor

(Audio widget followed by lyrics)

Those magic men the Magi
Some people call them wise
Or Oriental, even kings
Well anyway, those guys
They visited with Jesus
They sure enjoyed their stay
Then warned in a dream of King Herod's scheme
They went home by another way

Yes they went home by another way
Home by another way
Maybe me and you can be wise guys too
And go home by another way
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Steer clear of royal welcomes
Avoid a big to-do
A king who would slaughter the innocents
Will not cut a deal for you
He really, really wants those presents
He'll comb your camel's fur
Until his boys announce they've found trace amounts
Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh

Time to go home by another way
Home by another way
You have to figure the Gods saying play the odds
And go home by another way
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Home is where they want you now
You can more or less assume that you'll be welcome in the end
Mustn't let King Herod haunt you so
Or fantasize his features when you're looking at a friend

Well it pleasures me to be here
And to sing this song tonight
They tell me that life is a miracle
And I figured that they're right
But Herod's always out there
He's got our cards on file
It's a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch
Old Herod likes to take a mile

It's best to go home by another way
Home by another way
We got this far to a lucky star
But tomorrow is another day
We can make it another way
Safe home as they used to say
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high
And go home another way

Overheard In The Caravan
by CP

With myrrh, frankincense and gold we set out:
now empty-handed we're homeward bound.

Empty saddlebags on the camels
and our hearts full of questions…

Did we leave the presents
with the right king?

One in a palace, warm, fine and plush;
the other in a barn, all muck and hay – and oh, the smell!

But did we leave the presents
with the right king?

Oh, I think so! Remember Herod’s eyes, envy-green?
But ah, the innocence of the child who but cried and nursed and slept…

I think I saw him smile once!
And surely, his parents needed the help.

None so poor would have turned down the gold -
but they were honest folk…

You could see it in her face -
and how he cared for her and for the child.

They’ll save our gifts for when they need them
and mark my words: they will need them…

But did we find the one we sought?
Was it his star? And what if we were wrong?

His star it was, indeed: 
a star of mystery beyond the wisdom of us all.

We may not understand but we know: 
it was his star…

What next, then? What to tell the folks at home
of what we saw - and didn't see?

And what will they make of us and our tale
of a manger throne and a barn for a palace?

They’ll likely think us fools and I wonder, still, myself:
did we find anything? or everything? or even more than all?

A trip we won’t forget, for sure,
nor him we found nor those we met along the way…

And the angel in the dream,
with warning – just in time!

So this way home,
another way…

A new way now,
the path of dreams…

So mind the star,
it’s still above…

But fading fast,
so keep the pace…

Epiphany 2012
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