Journey of the Magi

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Literary Criticism of
‘Journey of the Magi’

The ‘Journey of the Magi’ is a poem written by T.S. Eliot in 1927. The inspiration for this poem is adapted from the story of the Three Magi who traveled from far away to pay homage to birth of Christ under the guidance of a star. The theme revolves around their search of faith narrated in the point of view of the Magi. The poem has no set rhyme or meter and is constructed in free verse. Unsatisfied and regretful with the times that they have wasted on worldly pleasures of “the summer palace on slopes, the terraces, and the silken girls bringing sherbet” that they enjoyed, the Magi left their lives of material comforts in order to pursue a quest for spiritual enlightment. Alliteration is used to produce a smooth flowing effect for the readers to feel the attributed sense of this comfort. Throughout the first stanza of the poem, the Magi describe the initial journey to be arduous as they have to face “the ways deep and the weather sharp” in “the very dead of winter” (lines 4 and 5). The depiction of this season that is often featured in many works of literature is used as a metaphor to represent death, the loss of hope and adverse times. Comparably, the imagery of the season’s characteristic bitter coldness featured in the poem embodies the sense of hardship that the Magi have to undertake to reach their destination. In the sixth and seventh lines, the “galled, sore-footed, refractory” state of the camels, too tired that they are “lying down in the melting snow” further reinforces the image that travel during this “worst time of the year” can be exhausting. The setting of the poem in winter may also allude to the time of the year when Jesus was born. However, it isn’t just the weather that is making the journey difficult. As the Magi strive through their journey, they encountered a lot of corruption in places where they passed by. From lines 12 to 16, the Magi narrate the dearth and poverty of the settlements they...
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