Happy Feast of the Epiphany! — Poems

Although in the Church in America we don’t officially celebrate it til this Sunday, the calendar says it’s the Epiphany. The only real tradition I have on this feast is to read T. S. Eliot’s poem, Journey of the Magi. Let’s read it together!

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 when 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 dirty 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 wineskins.
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.

A couple of years ago I wrote a poem for the Epiphany, a silly little thing I called Those Three Kings. Spoiler alert, it’s not very good:

Boxes have now been packed away;
Christmas after all is only one day.
Santa has gone back on vacation,
Ornaments are buried ‘til next year’s excavation.
A week from the fact the New Year’s baby took
Baby Jesus’ place, Who doesn’t get a look!
Now just the winter’s on everyone’s minds;
Post-holiday blues of all different kinds.
But look! on the horizon you just can see
Figures on camelback numbering three!
You saw them, I think, in your nativity set,
But in the real story they weren’t quite there yet.
Don’t discount the gentiles, the party’s still on!
It’s still Christmas, brothers, get up, sing a song!

 Happy Epiphany!

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3 Responses to Happy Feast of the Epiphany! — Poems

  1. David Haubenreich says:

    If you keep up your poem per day maybe I’ll gradually begin to enjoy it more. This poem was a good start…

  2. Joel says:

    Get a copy of “Good Poems,” edited by Garrison Keillor. Poetry’s a lot more accessible than you think.

    • David Haubenreich says:

      By relying on you, it will help you stay motivated to post. Win-Win-Win (Me, You, other readers of the blog)

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