The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

From the time that he prepared “The Hollow Men” for publication in 1925 until he wrote “Journey of the Magi” in July, 1927, T. S. Eliot wrote virtually no poetry at all. His personal convictions underwent enormous upheaval during that two-year hiatus, culminating in his baptism into the Church of England on June 29, 1927. Shortly thereafter, the editor at Faber & Gwyer publishers, for whom Eliot worked as an editor, asked Eliot to write a Christmas poem as one in a series of short, illustrated poems called the Ariel Poems. The result was “Journey of the Magi,” published on August 25, 1927. It was, as Eliot said in an interview published in The New York Times Book Review (November 29, 1953), the poem that released the stream for all his future work. Thus the poem bears personal as well as artistic significance for Eliot.

“Journey of the Magi” is a first-person recollection of a Magus, one of the Persian Magi who came to visit the Christ child as recorded in the second chapter of Matthew. The poem is narrated, however, from the perspective of many years later, after the Magus has returned to his home country. He is an elderly man, reflecting on events that occurred many years prior.

The recollection is divided into three parts. The first stanza recalls the journey itself, the long and demanding ordeal of the caravan to Judaea. The weather was very cold and sharp; the camels had sores and often balked; the camel...

(The entire section is 449 words.)