Chesterton and Eliot on the Epiphany

Jan 3, 2016 | Uncategorized

You can listen to T.S.Eliot reading his Epiphany poem The Journey of the Magi –  from a poor recording.

Or you can listen to Jeremy Irons on BBC radio on new Year’s Day or  – beautifully read by Martin Harris

Ann Chen reads Chesterton’s The Wise Men




THE WISE MEN     –     G.K. Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,

To find the place where men can pray;

The way is all so very plain

That we may lose the way

.Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore

On tortured puzzles from our youth,

We know all the labyrinthine lore,We are the three wise men of yore,

And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill

And lost the wood among the trees,

And learnt long names for every ill,

And serve the made gods, naming still

The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil

Of vision and philosophy,

The Serpent that brought all men bale,

He bites his own accursed tail,

And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly … it has hailed and snowed…

With voices low and lanterns lit;

So very simple is the road,

That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,

And blinding white the breaking day;

We walk bewildered in the light,

For something is too large for sight,

And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun

… We need but walk a little way,

We need but see a latch undone…

The Child that played with moon and sun

Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,

The old strange house that is our own,

Where trick of words are never said,

And Mercy is as plain as bread,

And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,

And low and large and fierce the Star;

So very near the Manger lies

That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes

To roar to the resounding plain.

And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,

For God Himself is born again,

And we are little children walking

Through the snow and rain.


T.S.Eliot: The Journey of the Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a 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 in 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 imformation, 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 downThis set down

This:  were we led all that way forBirth 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..

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