T.S. Eliot: Poems

Journey to Modernism

Compared to the poetry prior to the 20th century, the poetry of T.S. Eliot rings vibrant, unconventional and inventive. Eliot's poem "Journey of the Magi" is typical of his style and illustrates how Eliot's poetry changed the genre forever. In its compression of image and language, "Journey of the Magi" is a complex poem, reflective of the complex world of the 20th century.

The poem narrates the journey of the magi to see the birth of Christ. Traditionally, the magi in this tale are filled with a sense of wonder and excitement over the new king. They travel from afar and bring the finest gifts like gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Eliot's "Journey of the Magi," the magi are not characterized by the same sense of wonder and enthusiasm; they perform the journey without full understanding or interest. The gifts that are traditionally associated with them are not even mentioned. The first few lines of the poem set a negative tone; they explain that the journey was during the "worst time of the year" and in the "very dead of winter" (2; 5). This tone is surprising to the reader because traditionally the wise men are represented as dedicated and reverent-hardly the type to...

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