Journey of the Magi

by T. S. Eliot

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What difficulties did the Magi encounter during their journey?

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In the poem "Journey of the Magi" by T. S. Eliot, the difficulties that the Magi encounter during their journey include bitterly cold weather that afflicts them and their camels, disgruntled camel men, lack of shelters, unfriendly inhabitants of cities and villages who charge high prices, and doubts about the pilgrimage they are making.

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In the poem "Journey of the Magi" by T. S. Eliot, the narrator is one of the wise men from the east, as described in the Book of Matthew of the New Testament of the Bible, who leaves his home to follow a star to witness the birth of Jesus. In the first stanza of this poem, the narrator describes the numerous difficulties that he and his travel companions encounter.

One problem is the bitter cold because they are traveling in "the very dead of winter." This extreme cold afflicts the camels so that their feet become sore. The men daydream of their "summer palaces" where they relax while "silken girls" bring them "sherbet." The "camel men" that accompany them complain during the trip and long for liquor and women; sometimes they even run away. There are not many shelters, and the campfires keep going out. When they enter cities and dirty villages, they are met with hostility and "high prices." Eventually, the magi find it more peaceful to travel by night and sleep "in snatches" when they are able. Another difficulty they encounter is doubt about the journey they have undertaken; as they travel, they hear voices in their heads proclaiming "that this was all folly."

Eventually, they find the location for which they have been searching, and the event of the birth is in the narrator's opinion "satisfactory." When he returns home, he realizes that despite the difficulties he would do it again. However, he can no longer feel at ease in his kingdom, surrounded by "an alien people clutching their gods," when he has seen the one God. Ultimately, he longs for death.

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