WORKSHEET ON T.S.ELIOT'S THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI
1. The Journey of the Magi tells (part of) a story which should be familiar to you. Which story does it refer to?
The cold, the season (winter), the camels, the long journey, a birth make me think about the birth of Jesus the baby, and who tells the story is, in my opinion, one of the Three Kings, who speaks also about their kingdoms.
2. Are there any obvious differences between the version of the story you are familiar with, and the version told here?
Well, I suppose that in the Bible the Kings' perspective is not given, and that these characters' thoughts are not transcribed, because the importance in the Bible is based upon Jesus and his family In that poem the perspective is totally different.
3. Briefly outline the structure of the poem, by describing its parts, and how the three sections interrelate.
The first section is referred to the specific moment the three kings are travelling towards the place where Jesus has been born, the narrator (one of the kings) also speaks about what they are leaving behind themselves and how difficult the journey itself is.
Second section describes the place where they had to arrive (in this case, and although not directly expressed, we deduce that this place is Bethlehem).
The last section makes the reader be aware of the narrator's perspective: he speaks from his present about a far past and wonders about some related aspects.
4. Section One:
a) Eliot begins with a direct allusion to a sermon by Lancelot Andrewes. Do some research and then answer the following question: why do you think Eliot might have chosen to allude to this writer at the beginning of this poem?
T.S. Eliot seems to be very interested in writers who write about metaphysical aspects. Lancelot Andrewes was a bishop who translated the first Authorized Version on the Bible in English and knew deeply the metaphysical world, which he spoke and wrote about.
b) Make some comments of the linguistic patterns and structure of section one; how does this reflect or suggest the mood and feelings of the speaker?
It seems to me that the narrator wants to enumerate the obstacles that they met during their long and hard journey, like in a list, by the means of coordianted sentences and in not a very detailed way of describing them.
c) Many critics have drawn parallels between the style and imagery of section one with a particular genre of writing. Which?
I wrote first that the poem reminds me to certain Middle Age's German books in which the journeys were narrated in a similar way and they talked also about the difficulties the characters had to overcome (e.g. El Cantar de los Nibelungos).
Another possibility was the way in which chronicles were narrated, because they often showed travels and obstacles that the protagonist had to elude (e.g. in the crusades).
5. Section Two.
As the Magi draw near to their goal in this section, so critics have found an increase in the text's allusive quality. which images do you find allusive? And what do they allude to? Be as specific as you can.
-The "three trees" could be a reference to the three famous crosses from the Bible an what were hunged the two thieves and Jeuss Christ.
-The "tavern": the place where Mary and Joseph asked for lodging the night Jesus was born.
-"vine-leaves": The leaves that Eve and Adam wore in Paradise in order not to show their shame.
6. Section Three.
a) Summarize the Magus' understanding of his experience as expressed in the third section.
The third section, in my opinion, is the one that not only distinguishes between a remembered past and the present from which the narrator speaks, but also marks the Magu's change of mind by delineating between before and after the Journey (before and after this experience).
That event made him change his ideas about birth and death and even consider them the same:
"...this Birth was /Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death..."
He seems to have lost all hopes about life.
b) How does our understanding differ from his? Do we understand more or less than him?
I think I can understand the Magus' words and beliefs after reading the description of his experience, but it is also truth that our understanding about the abstract terms he is using (such as Death, Birth...) Differs a lot from his; nevertheless we can read the poem discovering the Christian references Eliot makeS.
7. In conclusion, how satisfactory do you find Moody's comments? Whe says the birth/death "paradox is easily resolved" if we think in Christian terms. For whom is that resolution easy?
Our culture is very familiar with the Christian religfion, so it is easy for us to understand some of the references tahta appear on T. S. Eliot's The Journey of the Magi, so I agree with Moody's comments who also speaks about the difference between us and the Magus' beliefs.
The poem is formed by beliefs and descriptions (those of the Magus); some of them can be understood by us, but what we cannot understand is the experience he is narrating because it is not reachable for us.