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Journey of the Magi

Journey of the Magi

by T.S. Eliot

The Palaces

Symbol Analysis

"Journey of the Magi" contains imagery of the Magis' homelands in both its opening and closing lines. And while the Bible (specifically the Gospel of Matthew, which is the only book that includes the story of the Magi) is vague about where these kings are actually from, our best guess at the moment is that they hailed from around present-day Yemen. In other words, they were from the desert, the land of eternal summer. So it's no wonder they're so nostalgic for it at the beginning of the poem. But by the end, a huge transformation has happened, and the Magi look back on their homes as long past their prime.

  • Lines 8-10: The word "regretted" in these lines hints at the change of heart that the Magi will have towards their homeland by the end of the poem. But, at least for now, these lines set up a very clear picture of the kind of life to which the Magi are accustomed—summer gardens, plenty of food, luxurious house, and basically being waited on hand and foot. Sounds great, right? It's definitely something to miss when you then find yourself trudging through the mountains in the dead of winter.
  • Lines 40-42: In this part of the last stanza, we can tell that the Magus is back at his palace, but he is "no longer at ease here. He's got a notion of what's coming, cultural-revolution-wise. This passage can be seen as symbolic for the larger and more vague death knell that's been sounded for his way of life. The change that's coming is so vast, it seems, that the Magus actually wishes for death rather than have to deal with the new order.

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