Countdown To Christmas: WB Yeats' The Magi

Poetry for christmas
Poetry for Christmas. Now available on Amazon
The “god-shaped question” is the subject of W.B. Yeats' poem about The Magi, the three men variously called kings or wise men who came to Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’s birth to pay homage to a new saviour. For Yeats, they are trapped forever in that posture of searching for that which they can revere.

He pictures them “in their stiff, painted clothes… pale [and] unsatisfied…their eyes still fixed,” caught in an eternal seeking that will never find what it is looking for.

In this short poem, he projects onto the wise men his own inability to find consolation in the “other plane” to which he devoted his life, which remains always trembling before him, tantalisingly elusive, behind the veil. 

His kings, undernourished and unconvinced by the “turbulence” of the story of Bethlehem and Calvary, their “eyes still fixed”, must pace the heavens too, perpetually unsatisfied.


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.


For more poems by WB Yeats, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Hardy, TS Eliot and others, you can purchase Poetry For Christmas at your local Amazon store HERE:

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