If you work through the symbols, Eliot has the gospel in this poem. I do not understand how those who consider themselves teachers want to return to the old dispensation.
And why we hold cheap what the magi struggled to witness. The incarnation of Christ.
‘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 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 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.
I am repeating what I said before, as I am repeating posting the Eliot poem. Some things need repetition. The first sermon was preached in New Zealand was in Maori, by Samuel Marsden, in 1814, and his message was Te Haranui: good news of great joy.
Te Haranui was written by Willow McKay.
The painting in the heading is “Coming Home for Christmas” by Evgeny Lushpin, 2013