Monday, 23 December 2013

23rd December: TS Eliot - Journey of the Magi

This is TS Eliot reading his poem “Journey of the Magi”

Dr Rowan Williams selected this poem in his Journey of the Archive. He wrote:

Another sort of birth meditation, this time about a particular birth, that of Jesus Christ. It begins famously with a passage from a seventeenth-century sermon ('All poets imitate', said Eliot, 'great poets plagiarise'), and ends with a carefully calculated set of anticlimaxes - very Eliot. What happens when a birth - Jesus's 'birth', as the poet starts re-discovering Christian faith - changes everything? The bizarre fact is that it can feel as if nothing has really changed, except that you have a sense that no one else has noticed what has happened - because something certainly has. 'Birth or death?' A new start that is felt only as the death of all that has been familiar; and yet the old world goes on, galloping aimlessly like the old white horse. Eliot never wanted to present religious faith as a nice cheerful answer to everyone's questions, but as an inner shift so deep that you could hardly notice it, yet giving a new perspective on everything and a new restlessness in a tired and chilly world. The flatness of the rhythms and phrasing, the utterly prosaic way of describing a miracle, all contribute to what turns out to be an intensely imagined and challenging poem that I first read as a boy and that still moves and disturbs me as much as it did then.

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