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Journey Of The Magi

                      The Magi are a class of Zoroastrian priests in ancient Media and Persia. The three Magi are traveling to Bethlehem to pay homage to Jesus Christ. As they make their way toward the saviour they begin to learn that the world around them has become full of corruption. Slowly, after time, the wise men realize that a death from this materialistic world is the only way to be born into the Kingdom of paradise. In his poem "Journey of the Magi," T.S. Eliot takes us, the reader, on a physical and spiritual journey by the use of several poetic devices; form and structure, the use of sound, engagement of the senses and figurative language. Eliot uses the form and structure of the poem to enforce the mythic construct of a physical and spiritual journey. He separates the poem into three sections or stanzas. First innocence: Spiritually and physically, the Magi have no idea of the hardships that a journey to praise the baby Jesus, will entail. To their alarm they begin to see the disgusting state that their world is in. Second the fall: The wise men separate themselves from the rest of their society. However, they have high expectations that the birth of Christ will be grandeur and when they arrive, they do not expect the birth to be so humble. Thirdly, there is redemption: One of the wise men seems to be reflecting on the events that passed. The Magus is finally able to understand the paradox that one must leave this world in order to be born into true utopia. This structure of a classical journey strengthens Eliot's spiritual and physical journey of the Magi. The use of sound is quite effectively employed by Eliot. By using assonance and repetition he produces an emotional moving poem. There are no harsh sounding lines. They all flow softly together. "The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, / And the silken girls bring sherbet" (9-10). This is just one example of assonance. The poem is full of soft slurred sentences. The flowing of the poem is in accordance with the structure of the poem as a journey being continuous. The third section is especially full of repetition which creates a bit of a choppy effect and leads to the Magus realizing the moral of the poem. 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. (33-39) The repetition of the words ‘set down', birth and death, emphasizes the meaning behind those words and how they apply to the journey of the Magi. Being in the redemption stanza, this helps bring the whole journey into perspective spiritually. A poet can evoke certain emotions just by using a skilled combination of words. T.S. Eliot uses the engagement of the senses to help us experience the physical journey of the wise men. He employs a great deal of synesthesia to make his poem more compelling. "And the silken girls bringing sherbet" (10). He combines the senses of tactile and gustatory. The ‘silken girls' give a feeling of soft, smooth fabrics and the ‘sherbet' a cold drink after long, arduous day. "Then the camel men cursing and grumbling/ And running away, and wanting their liquor and women" (11-12). He combines the auditory and visual senses. He wants the reader to be able to hear the crude camel men spewing vulgarities and the visual image of the immoral men and women. "Then we came to a tavern with vine leaves over the lintel, / Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, / And the feet kicking the empty wine-skins" (26-28). There is a visual image of leaves over the lintel and also a visual image of all the drinking and gambling taking place. He definitely creates a kinesthetic feeling with the ‘hands dicing' and the motion of ‘feet kicking'. By using synesthesia Eliot produces a vivid understanding of the wise men's journey. Finally Eliot uses figurative language to help us experience the spiritual journey the wise men take. He utilizes biblical allusions and symbolism to make the experience more meaningful. "And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow" (25). This use of symbolism can be interpreted in various different ways. The horse represents the Magi isolated from the rest of the world, since it appears in the second stanza when they are in ‘the fall'. The Magi are trying to leave behind the old contemptible world and its old beliefs. White traditionally represents purity and the Magi are coming closer to purity, Christ. As well, Eliot makes the biblical reference to the birth of Jesus, "I had seen birth and death, / But had thought they were different; this Births was/ Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death" (37-39). This paradox of dying to be born is carried throughout the poem, but is finally realized in the last stanza of redemption. The Magus has learned that he must release himself from the possessions of this earthly world and prepare for the passage into the true Kingdom. This completes his spiritual journey, which started so long ago. T.S. Eliot has undeniably taken the reader on the Magi's physical and spiritual journey in his poem by; form and structure, the use of sound, engagement of the senses and figurative language. He makes exceptional use of the classic structure of a journey: innocence - the fall - redemption. Eliot wants the reader to learn the same lesson that the Magi have, that happiness and paradise can never be achieved on this earthly world. We must first leave behind our old belief system to enter into the holy Kingdom.


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