Archive for Epiphany


Posted in Cricket, Football, Literature with tags , , , on January 6, 2011 by telescoper

So here we are then, it’s “officially” the last day of Christmas.

Last night was Twelfth Night, traditionally marked by an evening of festive merrymaking. And so it came to pass, as I sat with a cup of Ovaltine watching TV highlight’s of the third day’s play in the final Ashes Test in Sydney followed by Match of the Day, featuring coverage of Newcastle’s 5-0 thrashing of West Ham.

Today, 6th January, is Epiphany which traditionally marks the arrival of the three Magi and the presentation of their gifts to the baby Jesus. As far as I’m aware there’s no actual evidence that this actually happened on January 6th, but there you go. It’s a tradition nevertheless. In fact, I seem to remember that the Magi only appear in one of the four gospels (Matthew) and it doesn’t even specify that there were three of them..

Here in the United Kingdom, January 6th is when the holiday season really finishes, when Christmas trees and decorations come down, and when we’re allowed at last to stop eating Turkey curries. Some years ago I discovered that in other countries Epiphany is actually observed rather differently and is in fact one of the main events of the Christmas period. I only discovered this when I tried to arrange a meeting with Spanish and Italian representatives of an EU Network I was involved with on January 6th, only to be greeted with howls of protest. It actually makes sense, though, as presumably the exchanging of gifts at Christmas is supposed to commemorate the visit of the Magi. Why not, therefore, do it at Epiphany?

All this reminded me of the following (very famous) poem, called The Journey of the Magi , by T.S Eliot. I’m all out of gold, frankenstein and myrrh (whatever that is) – and I’m not a particularly wise man anyway – so I’ll offer this in lieu of a gift.

‘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 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.