The After Dinner Scholar

The Magi in the Poetry of Yeats and Eliot with Dr. Glenn Arbery

December 31, 2019

‘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.’

Those lines are the beginning of T. S. Eliot’s poem “Journey of the Magi,” an imagined first-person reflection by one of the Magi on the long trip to Bethlehem.

St. Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear that these were the first Gentiles, the first non-Jews to worship Christ. And they, their journey, and their gifts—gold for a king, frankincense for a God, and myrrh with its aroma of death—have attracted a good deal of interest and imagination over the centuries.

As we prepare for the Feast of Epiphany, Wyoming Catholic College president Dr. Glenn Arbery discusses Eliot’s poem (written in 1927) as well as one written by William Butler Yeats some years earlier (in 1916).