Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Poetry Tonight!

My poetry group meets tonight. I love poetry group. We're going to be looking at some T.S. Eliot poems. He'll be the first dead poet we've studied in a while. I'm glad. I have a particular fondness for dead poets. That we're reading and learning from and internalizing their poetry is proof that they are, in a way, still very much alive.



Next week, we're supposed to bring holiday-themed poetry. If we don't read the following poem tonight, I'm going to bring it: "Jourey of the Magi," by T.S. Eliot. I wrote a paper on this poem in the eleventh grade. It's a really good poem. Take your time when you read it. Poetry isn't any good if you don't take your time.





JOURNEY OF THE MAGI by T.S. Eliot

(written in 1927)



'A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.'

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.



Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.



All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.



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