Christmas thoughts

We had a quiet, restorative sort of day today, including a lovely chat with very dear friends in Canberra in their hot summer gear, but we did have a quick trip to Walmarts to print out some photos and stopped in at the Mall on the way back – and even in the small Mall that is here in Peterborough, there was an overwhelming amount of Christmas “stuff” – is that what it is meant to be about? In a contemplative mood I remembered the poem of T S Elliot -a very different sort of Christmas, it was written shortly after TS Elliot’s conversion to Anglo-Catholicism and is thought to be reflective of his uncertainly about conversion. My fifteen year old-self read it at the school Christmas Carol Service. I didn’t remember it being quite as harsh as it is but here it is for you:

The Journey Of The Magi



‘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, sorefooted, 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 arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place;
it was (you might 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.



2 thoughts on “Christmas thoughts

  1. Please, dear friends…no WalMart. They are notorious for treating their employees badly. Very low wages and extremely bad, if any, health benefits. I do not know how they are in Canada but here in the US…awful.

    • Thanks for letting me know, We generally try to support the smaller local businesses as I know how hard they have it, being up against the big companies. We will try and find somewhere else to print out photos in future.

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