Journey of the Magi

by T. S. Eliot

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 415

"Journey of the Magi" is a short poem by T. S. Eliot that is written from the perspective of one of the magi, or kings, who visited Christ after his birth. Eliot, having recently become a Christian, began to write more religiously focused poems. The following quotes explore some of the many ideas present in Eliot's poem.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Eliot is telling the story from one of the magi's perspectives and voicing their doubts and fears. It was a hard road, not a simple journey, and it likely took years. While they were going through it and experiencing turmoil, hardship, and suffering, they feared that it may have been worthless. Many critics believe that this reflects Eliot's own viewpoint. His life up until that point had felt meaningless, and having just found religion, he worried that his whole life prior to that had been without effective use. His personal world had changed, and he may have felt left out and separated from everything he used to know.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again

The speaker's hope and joy—and perhaps Eliot's—are returned to him in this line. The magus relates that, while the journey was difficult, it was certainly worth it, and he would risk the suffering once again. In Eliot's personal life, this may reflect his newfound hope, having found religion, and the magus states that he would give up everything from his old life again because of the value he has found in Christ.

. . . were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?

One of the final themes in this work is birth and death. Obviously, the magi came to this place to witness the birth of Christ, but were they seeing the birth of a savior, or were they seeing the death of the world they had known? In their journey, they experienced many examples of suffering, and the poem touches on a few of them. The former world is dying, and the magus says at the end that he would be glad of another death because he now feels like a stranger in his own land. What he says is essentially that he has died to the old way of life, and he would be glad to leave it all behind and start anew because of his discomfort.

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