T.S. Eliot and W.B. Yeats both wrote poems about the visit of the three kings. They’re notable for the stark challenges they pose; Eliot’s poem, particularly in the last verse, shows the whole world of the three kings challenged radically just by the birth of Jesus. Yeats’ has them seeking the meaning of his birth after his death.

In case they might be helpful for you in your prayer or homilies this week, I’ve included the poems in full below.

And if you’re looking for something a little more offbeat, I wrote an article on The Little Drummer Boy for Epiphany, called Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum. It’s in the newest issue of the magazine. 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 depth 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 unsatisfied, The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

W. B. Yeats

Journey of the Magi 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 when 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 dirty 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 wineskins. But there was no information, and so we continued And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you may 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. T. S. Eliot