The Journey of the Magi (Poetry Essay)

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During the journey, the most important thing is not the destination but the road itself. Very often, the journey changes a person's beliefs, thoughts, and life values. It makes him/her be born again. In "The Journey of the Magi", Thomas Stearns Eliot utilizes imagery, allusions, and symbolism to convey the hidden meaning of the poem and emphasize the importance of the spiritual journey rather than the physical one.

The title is extremely significant to the meaning of the poem. On the one hand, the title "The Journey of the Magi" is self-explanatory as the readers learn the details of the Kings' long journey to Bethlehem and their desire to see the newborn Jesus and give him gifts. On the other hand, the journey has a figurative meaning as well. One can notice that the author divides the poem into three sections aimed at conveying the idea of the transition from the physical road to the spiritual one. In the first section, the Magi do not know about the hardships they will encounter. In the second, they see the real world as it is. The Three Wise Men are used to living in palaces and having a luxurious life. However, it appears that the world is disgusting. Nevertheless, the Magi hope that the birth of Jesus will change the situation. In the third section, the narrator reflects on his journey and understands that his life values have changed. Consequently, the journey can be perceived as the narrator's journey from paganism to Christianity and his conversion to the devout person.



The narrator of the poem is one of the Magi as he uses "I" while telling his story. The readers imagine the narrator as an old and wise man because he rules the kingdom. The Magus describes his long journey, although it is obvious that he is rather pessimistic about it. In the poem, the author employs much imagery to demonstrate the miserable setting of the journey. In his monolog, the narrator uses pejorative vocabulary to show severe weather conditions, and make the readers realize how hard and arduous the journey is, "A cold coming/ the worst time of the year/ the weather sharp/ dead of winter" (1-5). Besides, the Magi are always negative about everything they encounter as they like neither the weather nor the places they pass, "the cities hostile/ the towns unfriendly/ the villages dirty" (14-15). Such word choice sets the gloomy mood of the poem. Besides, it evokes the feelings of despair and death. In his story, the Magus mentions summer, consequently, it informs the readers about the duration of the trip. However, in the last stanza, the narrator says, "We returned to our places, these Kingdoms" (40), therefore it is possible to guess that he is in his palace, and the journey ended many years ago. In such a way, Eliot uses the flashback technique for retrospection. The narrator reflects on his journey and sees that the road has led not to Bethlehem, but to faith. Consequently, to depict not only the physical journey but also the spiritual one, the author uses imagery as well. On the way to faith, they face many challenges like "the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory/ the camel men cursing and grumbling/ the lack of shelters" (6-13). Nevertheless, despite many obstacles, sufferings, and temptations to return home, the Magi persevere and express the determination to attain faith. Moreover, the images of "the summer palaces on slopes/ the terraces/ the silken girls bringing sherbet" (9-10) show that the Magi are used to leading a luxurious and idle life. Therefore, the journey is a challenge for them, and they want to return home. Still, due to their persistence, they find faith. The narrator says that he regrets about his previous life, and his palace becomes like a prison for him because he is "no longer at ease here" (41). The readers see that his life values have changed, and he would die rather than deal with the new order.

Along with the imagery that describes both the physical and spiritual journeys, the poet uses allusions to reinforce the religious theme of the poem and the necessity not to abnegate faith. The whole poem is the allusion to the journey of the Magi presented in the Bible. In his monolog, the narrator mentions "the three trees" (34) that can correspond to the three crosses on Golgotha, the place where Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. Besides, the "vine-leaves" (36) could also allude to the Bible, since Jesus is depicted as a vine and his followers as branches and leaves. Moreover, line 27 contains such a phrase "dicing for pieces of silver" that can refer to the day when Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Therefore, all these allusions imply the idea that it is important to preserve one's faith and overcome temptations and sins to prove one's loyalty to God.

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The allusion employed by the author make the poem rather symbolic as they refer to some episodes from the Bible. However, the readers may perceive that the poem is not only about the Magi's journey but also about the birth and death of a Christian. People believe that when they become Christians, they are born-again. It is not easy to attain faith and keep it during his/her life, a Christian faces many challenges. Like the Magi, a person should not give up and be loyal to God. In spiritual pursuit of faith, a person should not listen to those who scorn along the way. In the poem, the Magnus claims "I would do it again" (40) and, in such a way, demonstrates his intensity of faith and the determination to face all the challenges again if needed. It is obvious that only brave people, who overcome sensual temptations and desires, will achieve faith.

The imagery of weather and places the Magi pass, the allusions to the biblical episodes, and the symbolism of the physical quest emphasize the idea that is it extremely important not to give up towards your faith and inner self. Using the example of the Magi, Eliot shows that only through the struggle both with the outside and inner worlds a person finds God and the sense of life.

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