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Subject Journey to the Magi
Posted by Sukie Lu
Posted on Tue Mar 27 11:55:57 2001
From IP  

Sukie Lu (486200559)
American Poetry
Instructor: Dr. Ray Schulte
Journal 1¡XT. S. Eliot

  After reading Eliot¡¦s poems, I found that their mood is quite similar to each other. It is quite sad and negative. The poems are full of negative adjectives such as ¡§evening¡¨, ¡§patient¡¨, ¡§half-deserted¡¨, ¡§worst time¡¨, ¡§melting snow¡¨, ¡§grimy scraps¡¨ and so on. Besides, we can see almost all the poems talk about the season ¡§Winter¡¨ or the time ¡§evening.¡¨ Both of them reflect the idea of dying or death because they are in the last time in a year and a day. For examples; we have ¡§The Boston Evening Transcript¡¨ talk about the end of a day. In ¡§The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,¡¨ it starts with ¡§Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out¡K.¡¨ In addition, both ¡§Journey of the Magi¡¨ and ¡§Preludes¡¨ start with the season winter; ¡§A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year¡KThe very dead of winter,¡¨ and ¡§The winter evening settles down¡K.¡¨
  In this journal, I would like to talk about ¡§Journey to the Magi¡¨ because ¡§The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock¡¨ is too long and ¡§Preludes¡¨ is too difficult to me. This poem talks about some people travel in the worst time of the year in order to get something important. According to the Bible, these people are ¡§the three wise men who came from the east to Jerusalem to do homage to the infant Jesus.¡¨ And of course their goal is to witness the Birth of Jesus. That¡¦s why the birth that mentioned at the end of the poem is in Capital ¡§There was a Birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt.¡¨
  In this poem, the hardship of the journey is emphasized. At the beginning of the poem, it tells us that the journey starts in ¡§the worst day of the year¡KThe ways deep and the weather sharp.¡¨ Evening is in an ill and dying condition. For instance, the ¡§camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, Lying down in the melting snow.¡¨ In such a long difficult journey with such poor condition, it makes the speaker thinks of their past with comfortable palace and girls. It is a big contrast to their present situation¡X¡§he death winter¡¨ vs ¡§the summer palaces on slopes, the terraces¡¨ and the dying camels vs ¡§silken girls.¡¨
  Because of their harsh condition, they project their dissatisfaction on the circumstances they are in. That¡¦s why they think the cities are hostile, the towns are unfriendly and the villages are dirty. It seems that everything goes against them. All these difficulties, on one hand, show the hard time they had, on the other hand, show their will to reach the destination is determined. In the first stanza, it tells us about the situation of their journey and their thinking. Actually, whether they can reach their destination is uncertain. That¡¦s why in their mind they still have ¡§voices singing in our (their) ears, saying That this was all folly.¡¨
  The poor situation is changed in the second stanza. It changes from ¡§night¡¨ to ¡§dawn,¡¨ ¡§dying camel lying down in the melting snow¡¨ to ¡§white horse galloped away in the meadow,¡¨ ¡§the lack of shelters¡¨ to tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel.¡¨ And at the end it changes from ¡§this was all folly¡¨ to ¡§it was (you may say) satisfactory.¡¨
  There are some images in stanza two that are obvious but hard to understand. For examples, the ¡§three trees¡¨, ¡§old white horse¡¨ and the three people (six hands) playing dice. I don¡¦t know why the number three appears again and again in this poem such as the three travelers, the three trees and the three dicing people. Will it suggest the ideas of birth, death and rebirth?
  The third stanza is the most difficult part of the poem. It tells the result of their journey and the main idea, birth and death, of the poem. From the first line ¡§All this was a long time ago, I remember,¡¨ we know that they have finished their journey and returned to their country. However, from the question ¡§This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death?¡¨ it shows a kind of uncertainty towards the idea of birth and death. Although they witness the Birth, ¡§this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us (them), like Death, our (their) death.¡¨ They think they are dead is because they find that the present situation of their country is totally changed. They feel that they don¡¦t belong to this place. Everything is changed including their religion. That¡¦s why the speaker says ¡§I should be glad of another death¡¨ if living ¡§with an alien people clutching their gods¡¨ in their place. Although they¡¦ve seen the Birth in their journey, after the journey everything is dead in their country including themselves. However, this dead is also not the end, it is the premise of another birth (the birth of the alien people and their gods).


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