The Journey of the Magie by T.S. Eliot

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  • Topic: Jesus, Penance, Books of the Bible
  • Pages : 3 (1209 words )
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  • Published : November 15, 2010
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Critical Analysis of T.S. Eliot's "Journey of the Magi"

In the book of Ephesians in the Bible, Paul describes the rebirth of the world upon Christ’s death, emphasizing the Ephesians’ new life (2:4-5). This theme of death and rebirth is present in the poem Journey of the Magi which is structurally and internally divided into three stages; corresponding to the sacrament of penance: contrition (guilt), confession and satisfaction. To understand this poem, one has to understand the impact that Christ had on the world. At the time of his birth, however, the known world was not stable; people worshipped many gods, and we get a full description of the way life was by the Magi who narrates his story of their journey to Bethlehem to witness the end of an era and the birth of a new one.

According to the Oxford Bible Dictionary, the word contrition means “penitent’s spiritual sorrow for the sins he has committed” and it necessarily includes hatred for such sins, as well as the determination to avoid them in the future. In the first stanza, this “spiritual sorrow” is apparent by the contrast Eliot uses, of the Magi’s difficult journey. In fact, the central focus of criticism has been on the journey; the “A cold coming…” (Line 1) during “…the worst time of the year…” (Line 2), emphasizing the climatic statement of the stanza: “A hard time we had of it.” (Line 16) The Magi talks of their sorrowful past life of ease, the times they “…regretted…the silken girls bringing sherbet.” (lines 8-10), and in the same way that they are physically moving towards Christ, they feel they are progressing spiritually, putting a personal ban on the sinful lives they have had. This act of contrition seems genuine because they are pressured by the “…the voices singing in our ears, saying /That this was all folly (lines 19-20) These are the voices of the camel men, the hostile cities and the unfriendly towns, voices that tempt the wise men to cease their foolish journey and fall, once again,...
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