‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and
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
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears,
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a
temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of
With a running stream and a water-mill
beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in
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 imformation, and so
we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment
too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say)

All this was a long time ago, I
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,
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
But no longer at ease here, in the old
With an alien people clutching their
I should be glad of another death.

Analysis, meaning and summary of T.S. Eliot's poem Journey Of The Magi


  1. julissa says:

    this poem is fantastic but it
    ‘s not easy to understand it without reading it over and over again

  2. Mike Thompson says:

    The poem was written in the UK. T S Eliot was a British citizen who was born in the US but produced his work in the UK where he lived for most of his life.

  3. Caleb galadima says:

    It a wonderful poem bigup to eliot.

  4. nandita says:

    eliot at his best…the biblical allusions are commendable….

  5. Catherine says:

    What I take from the sense of sadness and resignation in the narrator is that he had this experience. He made this difficult journey. He was searching for something, but when he found it, he could not bring himself to fully accept the implications. This reminds me of the ending of that Rilke poem “You must change your life”. The narrator is unwilling to do this, and because of this he cannot enjoy the reality or the fruits of a true rebirth in Christ. He remains in the liminal zone of betwixt and between, neither here nor there. Physical death would be a relief to him because he can no longer enjoy the old but neither can he truly embrace the new. To do so he would have to sacrifice the comforts of the old and the familiar and leap boldly into the new, into the arms of Christ.

  6. assia zoubeir says:

    throught my reading to this wonderful poem i concluded to the fact that it goes beyond two important phases that is the first one is a physical journey where the 1st stanza is describing its hardship while the rest of the poem is emphasizing the spiritual journey that appears more difficult than the 1st one..

  7. ofentse habana says:

    wonderfull and deserve to be on the number one hot spot

  8. ajisegbede oluwafunmilola toyin says:

    its a very nice poem that one needs to read over and over again just like the bible that brings different meanings each time it is read

  9. Melanie McCormick says:

    If we look at these words “I would be glad of another death” it would be easy to be lead to believe the wise visitor of the Christ Child is feeling pangs of despair. Despair however is not consistent with Christian thought. The tiny baby born in the stable at Bethlehem is the cause of our joy. “Do not be afraid” said the angels to the shepherds. Rather than despair, another death, a physical one, is the point of entry into eternal life where we look forever upon the face of Christ as the magus has seen for himself. That face which is all hope and beauty and peace for a man jaded of the things of this world. Recall another man, an elderly one, Simeon the proghet, who waited his whole life in the temple to see the face of of the redeemer. “Now you may release your servant oh Lord, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” He is glad of death because a life much greater awaits him too. Happy Epiphany 2010!

  10. neeraja says:

    jouney of the magi is a wonderful as well as a hearttouching poem….even though it is hard 2 understand it is quite easier when understood….i wonder how the poet could bring out meaningful similies for the biblical incidents ,so succesfully…the sucess of the poet lies in bringing out words which really posess entirely different meaning from what they seem to be..

  11. Badmus mustapha olalekan says:

    The poem is fantastic.

  12. Oyehan Abdu-R-Rosheed says:

    T S Eliot is a poet with great wealth of language and philosophy. That is why the poem cannot be understood after reading it once. I will advise readers to go over it as much as possible.

  13. Werlay says:

    I believe it is a poem to read over and over again. It is full of picturesque imagries that sends one on mental torment.

  14. Mark says:

    Has anyone read this poem in reverse order, starting with the last line and proceeding back to the first? It seems to flow together just as easily backwards as forwards. I thought this was definitely a unique way to write a poem, and it shows another element to the “journey” Eliot describes.

  15. eunice says:

    this poem could be analysed as the endurance of christains give them success atlast.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Why would they put Albania on the list, they don’t have Sierra Leone, stop complaining.

  17. yinka says:

    i find the poem so illustrative of the pains an hardship the magi faced.it quite touch me that all those where 4 a baby.

  18. Manjola says:

    It is one of my favourites. I even have a personal way of experiencing it: to me, it is about our sharp moments of growth, about our learning new things and new facts and the way they “disturb” our peace. They may be bad, they may be good, or they may be just disturbing, and it takes a long time for us to adapt to the new world this specific truth brought us to, that sometimes we fear its existence.

    P.s. I was a bit insulted by the “Choose your Country” not including Albania. There are people reading Eliot in this side of the world too.

  19. aziz habibi says:

    its a poemin which eliot dramatises the journey to purgation .the magi is wristling his old despensation through his runing up against the temptations of life this life is full of material obstacles.of course the salvation is realised through life in death

  20. rachid says:

    this interesting poem by t.s eliot is i think a well painted image on the reality and inner void within which the modern soul is imbeded.

  21. Rachel says:

    this poem is showing the journey that all must go through to reach Jesus and heaven. Eliot was giving us his look on the journey; he was showing how important the journey is, how important salvation is.

  22. fajar s.roekminto says:

    it’s hard to understand with my own cultural banckground.

  23. karima says:

    i think in this poem we have a disciption of physical journey.kings looking for a lost religion,and the things they had to go through to witness that miraculus birth

  24. tonia says:

    the poem teaches us how we leave our lifes.it views the christian life from realisation to rebirth.for in dying we ae born again.

  25. sara says:

    Eliot’s theme for The Journey of the Maji is the difficulty of accepting change even with presented proof, convincing evidence. People can be unwilling to mend old ways and the difficulty to change “old dispensation” (the definition for dispensation is, in loose terms, arrangement)

    Eliot uses allusions to the bible, primarily in stanza three as well as metaphor and repetition to get his “point” across to the reader.

    Beginning in stanza one we are presented with and image of three wise men off on a journey to find the child Christ. Their journey starts in the “dead of winter.”, the first five lines are a direct quote from asermon by bishop Andrewes, Eliot’s Anglican influence.

    As this journey to find the child continues, first the camels suffer exhaustion, reluctant to continue their voyage. “Galled, sore-footed, refractory…”

    The Maji or “Wise Men” begin to remember the “old days” before their quest, once high princes the maji enjoyed the luxury of “summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, and the silken girls bringing sherbet.” And they begin to question why they would continue on this so difficult journey when they could turn around back to their “old dispensation”… their material possessions and old spiritualality. “Then the camel men cursing and grumbling And running away, and wanting their liquor and women…”

    The maji explains the hurdles in the journey, including doused lamps “Night-fires going out” These hurdles are mostly made by man and his inability to accept other men’s differences. They are turned away from shelter and the villages are “dirty”.

    We are led to believe that this poem is not solely about the Maji’s journey but about a journey of any person going through spiritual change. These “dirty” villages can be considered people who are not converted christians.

    The maji, instead of allowing themselves to wallow in the dirtiness of the cities “prefer” to continue on, traveling all night… the whole time their minds “singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly,” they question the journey and that perhaps this journey to find this child Christ is futile.

    The second stanza holds the majority of all the allusions in the poem. These are for the most part biblical allusions and all relate to Christ and his crucifiction. A few of the illusions come from Eliot’s other works.

    The first stanza shows that the “dead winter” is beginning to thaw into a “temperate valley,” the water-mill beating the darkness directly refers to Eliot’s other work where six male workers have their own journey. (research Eliot’s other poetry for more information) Three trees on the low sky is a direct reference to Jesus’s crucifiction, The actual cross, Jesus and the two criminals on either side of him. The “old white horse” is thought to be linked to Rev. 19:11-13 but the debate exists that it could be referenced to Zech 4:6 or revelations 6:2.

    for a continued entree, my AP essay or other reference materials contact me through e-mail

  26. sesealia says:

    I think this poem is great because, like ulysees, it gives the reader an insight into another persons fictional character.It describes the birth of christ as rather a negative thing.

  27. aycan says:

    in the poem pagan kings whitness christ’s birth and they realized how wrong they lived their lives.their first death was that.and the second death they would prefer is literally being dead,since they feel lost

  28. Kayleigh says:

    I think this poem does have religious tones to it, but that’s obvious. Eliot was more about things under the surface. I think this poem speaks more about the journey of life to death, and the various stages in between.

  29. Kathy says:

    I think the Magi see but don’t understand foreshadowing of Christ’s death on their journey to the birth. At the end, ” I should be glad of another death” now means he believes in the enternal life.

  30. Shelly says:

    I think that the Magi saw a vision of Christ’s death, while being spiritually reborn. He returned to a place where he witnessed people worshiping false gods, and was so saddened by what he saw, that he would rather die physically then be sujected to such idolitry. I believe the first death was his own spirtual death.

  31. Shelly says:

    The horse image is refering to the white horse of the conquering Christ in (Revelation 19:11-16)

  32. carla says:

    the poem has the form of a dramatic monologue and has a circular movement, starting in winter (Christmas’ time) and finishing at the Epiphany. However, there is a stop during the journey and that’s in spring so that the Magi can see the Crucified Christ (three trees). Birth and Death mingle, Death announces a new birth. The Magus would wish for another Death. Whose death? Christ’s? and a new salvation?
    What puzzles me is the windmill and the horse images . What objective correlatives are they of? Can anyone help me?

  33. Nic S says:

    I thought that it was very well written, with great expression shown through his writtings. I greatly enjoyed how the writter, put his throughs into this such broad stroy, and still kept it going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by T.S. Eliot better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.