The speaker of the poem is a magus or wise-man, one of the three who brought gifts to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. As he looks back in time to that momentous, epoch-making journey, he comes across as having been nervous and agitated at the time, worn-down and irritated by the long, hard trek that he and his companions had to endure. Even when the magi finally arrived at their destination, the speaker recalls it as being nothing more than “satisfactory.” Upon reflection, the magus still seems a tad unsure as to the full significance of what he witnessed all those years ago:
were we led all that way for Birth or Death?
But one thing's for certain: the speaker's whole life has been completely transformed by his encounter with the Christ-child. His whole understanding of birth and death has also undergone profound change in the intervening years. Having witnessed the birth of a new historical era and all that it signifies, the speaker appears to be profoundly dissatisfied with life in his native kingdom, with its worship of pagan gods. He gladly wishes to die to his old life, and experience a new birth in Christ.