BACKGROUND OF THE POEM TITLED The Journey Of The Magi by T.S. Eliot

When this poem was written in 1927, the world had just witnessed the First world war which took place between 1914-1918. The poem is highly influenced by modernism as it was obvious that the Victorian era of poetry with its romantic ideals and preoccupation with nature could no longer cater for the disillusionment and violence that was then the order of the day in the twentieth century in Britain.

Thus, the birth of the literary movement known as Modernism and TS. Eliot is a known poet of this tradition.

The journey of the Magi when published in 1927 was in a series of pamphlets related to Christmas. The poem was written shortly after Eliot’s conversion to the Anglican faith.

Accordingly, though the poem is an allegorical dramatic monologue that inhabits the voice of one of the magi {the three wise men who visit the infant Jesus]. It‘s also generally deemed to be a deeply personal poem. As the magus in the poem, shares Eliot‘s view that spiritual transformation is not a comfort, but an ongoing process-an arduous journey seemingly without end.

SUMMARY OF THE POEM TITLED The Journey Of The Magi by T.S. Eliot

T.S Eliot‘s The Journey of the Magi straddles three moments in time-its 20th-century composition. Andrewes’s 17th century, and the biblical era-linking them all through the continuity of religious hardship. This is factual as the poem “The journey of the Magi” begins with an allusion. quoting and adapting a 1622 sermon by English bishop Lancelot Andrewes.

Eliot adapts Andrewes’s discussion of the magi’s arduous journey by switching the pronoun from third-person to the first-person plural, setting up the rest of the poem’s dramatic monologue. Also, from the poem’s title, we know it tells the entire poem is centered around the recreation of the Biblical Magi on their way to see and Worship the Messiah, a newborn king.

We see through the voice of one of the magic stating the challenges of the journey, the daunting weather conditions coupled with the fact that it was such a long journey.

In lines 6-7 the animals were uncooperative as they plod through “the melting snow” and as they continue in this tedious-journey. they began to long for the luxuries they were used to and they long for comfort. (line 11-12.]

In the poem. the poet persona creates an overwhelming feeling of hardship and discomfort where they had no access to their earthly comfort, the cities are hostile and they haste to travel all night probably to have less interaction with people.

It is however believed that one of the magi in the poem shares Eliot’s view that spiritual transformation is not a comfort, but an ongoing process-an arduous journey seemingly without end.

At the time of its writing. Eliot had recently converted to Anglicanism (the Church of England). He was frustrated by the way that people believed his conversion to represent a kind of comfortable settling-down when he saw himself as the magi having just “begun a long journey underfoot.” Perhaps, then, this quote speaks to the way that spiritual transformation is and always has been, and always will be a difficult process.

Thus. the magis’s view on the birth of Jesus-and the shift from the old ways to Christianity-is complex and ambivalent.

THEMES

Life is a Journey

The entire poem speaks of life as a journey. Here, Journey is a metaphorical representation of the space between birth and death. In the poem, the challenges and hurdles that come on the travelers away are metaphorically the representation of life itself. There are beautiful moments in the journey of life. periods of joy and happiness and they are difficult times as well.

In lines 8 and 9, the poet persona talks about the times they regretted being on the journey because of the harshness of the weather but the journey continues. Their experiences are symbolic representations of man’s journey through life.

Hardship in the Journey to Attain Spiritual Maturity

T.S Eliot”s “Journey of the Magi” being an allegorical poem talks about the pain of spiritual rebirth. It”s important to note that the poem was written after Eliot himself had just experienced a dramatic conversion to the Anglican faith, which informed all of his poetry that came after. The poem presents the untold hardship and challenges that the Magi faced all to see the newborn Messiah against the foregone assumption that they set out from a long distance in search of the messiah to worship. The journey of the
Magi represents the Christians journey to salvation.

Suffering

The theme of suffering is prominent in the first stanza of the poem. Here we see how the Magi set out on their journey and everything appears to be working against them.

First, the timing of the journey was not favorably, Just the worst time of the year”/For a journey. The weather was not in their favor of such a long journey.

Also in lines 6 and 11 the camel handler was grumbling and runs to feed their cravings at night. As the journey proceeds, they were days without lights or shelter and many more. The struggle against external and internal factor runs through the poem as well, the struggle between spiritual reformation and transformation comes with suffering as depicted in the poem.

STRUCTURE OF THE POEM

The journey of the magic is written in three uneven stanzas, forty-two lines. The poem is
written following the modernist tradition.

It has no rhyme or metric system, this it is written in free verse. The use of language in the poem is tactfully fused in a way to depict someone’s thoughts being revealed to the readers. The poet also deploys a bit of the stream of consciousness as a narrative technique that is peculiar to prose narratives in the poem and this allows the reader to feel the exact way the poet persona feels. in-arguably, the poet effect uses offer punctuation marks make the out-pour of emotions very fascinating.

POETIC DEVICES OF THE POEM

Alliteration:

“cold coming” line 1
“The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,/And the silken girls bringing sherbet.” line
9 and 10
“camel men cursing” line 11
“Sleeping in snatches” line 18
‘At dawn, we came down” line 22

Assonance:

“And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory.
Lying down in the melting snow.”
“running away, and wanting their liquor and women.”

Irony

The deployment of irony in the poem is that the Magus expected that he had traveled all that way to experience the joy of birth. It turns out that although it was a birth. it was not joyous, but agonizing, because it was the opposite of birth: death. both of Jesus himself and of the pagan way of life. This is expressed in line 39: “this Birth was/Hard and bitter agony for us. like Death, our death.”

Also. the poet deploys situational irony in line32: “Finding the place; it was {you may say} satisfactory.”

Here, the magi’s who was supposed to be in awe at this moment: the birth of Jesus. Instead, he uses the word “satisfactory.” which has a very flat affect and qualifies it with the parentheses “(you may say)” which distances himself from even mild positivity.

Rhetorical Question

In lines 35—36. the poet deploys the use of the rhetorical question to express the idea that birth and death are intertwined that death isn’t the opposite of birth because sometimes death doesn’t mean an end but a start of a new life.

Allusion

Lines 1-5 of the poem allude to the opening lines of a Christmas sermon given by Lancelot Andrews, Bishop of Winchester. These lines are a deliberate attempt of the poet to establish the poem as an examination of man’s quest for spiritual reformation and transformation.

Synecdoche:

“Six hands…and feet” line 22′

Personification

“The cities, towns, and villages”
These are personified to represent the hostility of the townspeople the Magi meets on their journey.

Tone

The tone is the poet”s attitude toward the subject matter of a poem. The tone in the First and second stanzas is narrative while the poet sets a reflective tone in the third stanza.

Mood

The poet of the mood in each stanza of the poem varies. In stanza one the mood is frustration, in stanza two, the mood is hope and in the third stanza, the mood is thoughtful.