Journey of the Magi

written by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

‘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 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.


特に the second stanza の the word “temperate”、この一語でそれまでの the first stanza の “cold” や “winter” のイメージから一気に完全に決着をつけにきている、そのおそいかかってくるタイミングというか間合いというか、そこに何か異様なものを感じる、引き続いて、
“temperate valley” と“tavern” の描写、
“water-mill” が夜明けの “the darkness” を “beat” している、
“the lintel” の上に “vine-leaves” が絡みついた “tavern”、
“hands-feet” でもってきて、銀貨をかけてのサイコロ賭博、

the final stanza でそれまでの “we” を “I” に突然切り替えてくる思わず鳥肌が立つような場面転換の鋭利な(鋭利ななどという凡庸な言葉では作家に本当に申し訳ないですが)感覚、何か性的な感覚、
そしていよいよこの詩の核心であると僕には思われる一語 “agony”を登場させての、
“this Birth was/ Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.”
このイエスの誕生は我々にとって “agony” だった、さらには、
“With an alien people clutching their gods.”、
自国の民は今や “alien people” だということ、
the final line の “I should be glad of another death.”

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