Christmas Day. Last year. The Advent candles lit and allowed to burn all day. And into the evening hours. And until they extinguished themselves. With a death in the family, last year’s Christmas day was surreal and somber. Many activities that would have normally taken place did not due to pandemic restrictions.
This photo, from last year, captures many memories and thoughts. The white candle, sometimes called Christ’s candle in the Advent wreath, represents light, purity, and victory.
Light shines brightest in the dead of winter, in the confusion of depression and folly, and in the feeble snatching after victory from the gutter of defeat.
The poet, speaking in the voice of the magnus, asks “Birth or Death?” Whether King Baltazar, Kasper, or Melchior, the poet does not reveal. “I should be glad of another death.” This line echoes in my mind. Why not, I should be glad for another death? Or, I should be glad of death? Wrestle with this poem during the “worst time of the year.” Consider if the liotodes in the poem is “satisfactory.” Avoid googling what it means. Close the laptop. Turn off the mobile device. Watch the candle light and ruminate.
The Journey Of The Magi
by T. S. Eliot
“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 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.
 Post updated December 30, 2021.
 The Poetry Archive, “Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Eliot read by the poet. Accessed December 30, 2021. https://poetryarchive.org/poem/journey-magi/