At last the Magi (Three Wise Men) make it to the crib!
“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.” (T S Eliot)
The poem, written shortly after Eliot’s 1927 conversion to Christianity, is about far more than the Magi themselves. Literary types read it as the story of Eliot’s conversion, the often-brutal journey into faith. The first five lines are lifted from a 1622 “Nativity Sermon” given by Lancelot Andrewes, one of the translators of the original King James Version of the Bible.* Andrewes’s sermons and writings were thought to be instrumental in Eliot’s coming to faith, suggesting that the poet himself points to the connections between this haunting poem and his struggles to hold on to his newfound belief.