Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Magi


The Journey of the Magi, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1894)

Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a 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 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 hostile 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 in
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 wine-skins.
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.


The Adoration of the Magi, Rembrandt van Rijn (1632)

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.

--T. S. Eliot



Adoration of the Magi, Leonardo Da Vinci (1482)

5 comments:

Garpu the Fork said...

Do you remember a show on PBS years ago about the fourth magi? It followed the legend of him, that through a series of misadventures, he winds up giving away all the treasures he had for the Christ child, but winds up finally meeting Jesus during the Crucifixion.

Jeff said...

No, a fourth magi? Interesting. I wish I saw that. He missed out on a lot of good press.

Gaspar, Melchor, Baltazar... and "Fred".

A fourth magi. That's kind of like being the 5th Beatle. He was the Pete Best of the Magi.

Garpu the Fork said...

Driving me nuts. I'll have to see if the Hoopy Frood knows what the heck I'm talking about, but although he grew up in the shadow of WGBH, he didn't grow up watching PBS, like I did.

crystal said...

I saw this somewhere ...

''The Fourth Wise Man,'' adapted for television by Tom Fontana, is based on a Henry van Dyke short story first published in 1895. Its hero is Artaban, a Persian magi or wiseman, whose reading of the stars persuades him that a new king is being born in Jerusalem. Selling his possessions, Artaban sets out with his slave Orontes to join the three other magi who are also making the trip. But because he stops to help others along the way, Artaban never catches up with the other wise men. He spends the next 33 years ministering to the poor, finally discovering his ''King'' hanging on a cross like a common criminal.

Nice pictures, Jeff. That top one looks a little scary - makes me think of the dark riders of LOTR meeting Dune :-)

Jeff said...

''The Fourth Wise Man,'' adapted for television by Tom Fontana, is based on a Henry van Dyke short story first published in 1895.

Well done, Crystal!

That top one looks a little scary - makes me think of the dark riders of LOTR meeting Dune

Now that you mention it, I see what you mean... although those camels aren't as intimidating as those fleet black horses. :-)

It reminds me a bit of that scene in Lawrence of Arabia, the one where Peter O'Toole rides back to rescue the guy who got left behind by everyone else.