coming beneath the light of that star

This first item is an unpublished prayer by Christine Perrin, responding to “Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot (for a 9th grade history class event in 2012). Eliot’s poem is below.

Epiphany

Lord, you know we are walking this road
toward your star; we left, or tried to leave,
our palaces, our sherbets; leaving itself
has been painful and has shown us
the ambiguity in our hearts. Why did I think
that coming beneath the light of that star
would make this easier? You were born,
you died, and so must we. Be near
in the cursed dark, give us hope that one day,
without doubt, we will arrive, we will experience
the undiluted pleasure of your suffering
and loving face. Give us patience as we make
our way, falteringly, to the cleft in the rock.

And here is the poem by T.S. Eliot to which this prayer is a response:

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, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when 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 dirty 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 wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may 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.

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