And the Cities Hostile…

Do you have a favourite Christmas poem?  Mine is T.S Eliot’s Journey of the Magi.

The last stanza always gives me goosebumps.  It reminds me how one person’s birth had – and continues to have (to some extent) – an enormous impact on a significant portion of the world’s population.

I also like the last stanza because it gives you a sense of how difficult it is to throw out all of your old beliefs when you’re faced with evidence of their redundancy. Change is hard!

And who in their life hasn’t had a similar journey? Italy to Australia is all about sleeping in snatches and a hard time we had of it . In case you’re not familiar with the poem, here it is:


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 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 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 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.

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About cityoflu

Secret Agent Lu likes travelling, reading, neuroses (all kinds), the Orient, cities, feet and science.
This entry was posted in Christmas, Cities, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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