A Gift of “The Magi”

“Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye/In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones/Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky/With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,/ And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,/And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,/ Being by Calvary’s turbulence insatisfied/ The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.”

i have read  Yeats’  poem The Magi thousands, nay millions, of times.  I would recognize any line or phrase from it.  But I never memorized it, and last night,  ( after listening to a recording of T.S Eliot reading his own poem The Journey of the Magi —harsh!) I decided to learn it.

And the “gift”?

When I spoke the poem aloud, for the first time,

I could see them, the Three Kings! The boardlike gold robes and glinting helmets, gleaming fitfully like. a constellation against velvet  sapphire of a midnight sky, the ageless weariness and dogged determination of the quest,   the consummation vouchsafed to them!  to witness the luminous Godchild writhing and squalling  in the golden straw,  which they can never unsee, and want only to see again, and ever.

The mind does have an “eye” indeed, but as often as I’ve mouthed the phrase, I’ve never gazed with it so  piercingly. it was as if a jewel box sprung open before me.

All things come of Thee, O Lord!  not least among them: the poet’s gift.

Come and worship!

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6 thoughts on “A Gift of “The Magi””

  1. Having visited Ireland this summer (and being thoroughly taken by all things there, especially the brogues) I recently memorized the prayer Hail Mary in Gaelic (the language they simply call ‘Irish’). I found a website with audio that leads you through the pronunciation. I feel the same as you do, when I say it out loud – it comes alive and I see the words with new meaning – it’s a wonderful experience.

    I love your painting of the kings with poetry.

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  2. Here is a commentary that is conversant with the Magi, but dives deep into weeds of syntax and forgets to grapple with meaning.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=30tvBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT45&lpg=PT45&dq=Being+by+Calvary%E2%80%99s+turbulence+unsatisfied&source=bl&ots=pRe2BJOIhm&sig=8H5Eox36W0H2ra7xpk1gE6oofR0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidsYzY64ffAhXHna0KHd6ODRsQ6AEwCHoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=Being%20by%20Calvary%E2%80%99s%20turbulence%20unsatisfied&f=false

    I figure that it is Yeats who is unsatisfied by Calvary’s turbulence.

    I suppose that the bestial floor is a reference to the stable in Bethlehem ?

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  3. MJBubba:
    Here is a commentary that is conversant with the Magi, but dives deep into weeds of syntax and forgets to grapple with meaning.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=30tvBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT45&lpg=PT45&dq=Being+by+Calvary%E2%80%99s+turbulence+unsatisfied&source=bl&ots=pRe2BJOIhm&sig=8H5Eox36W0H2ra7xpk1gE6oofR0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidsYzY64ffAhXHna0KHd6ODRsQ6AEwCHoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=Being%20by%20Calvary%E2%80%99s%20turbulence%20unsatisfied&f=false

    I figure that it is Yeats who is unsatisfied by Calvary’s turbulence.

    Sez  you.  The poet says it’s the Magi.

    I suppose that the bestial floor is a reference to the stable in Bethlehem ?

    Duh.

    I get that you will want the last word, so feel free to dig up some other artifact from academe.   My post isn’t a “commentary” though.  I’m just sharing a personal, totally idiosyncratic experience occasioned by speaking the poem aloud, is all.  I’m not an English major.  Think of it as you would if I told you about a dream I had.  You really can’t argue  with it, any more than I can defend it–nor  refute it by digging up examples of other people’s dreams.  It simply was.   Enjoy it! Or not.

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