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Forgive me for puerile recollections and for lowering the tone:-


*...We three Kings of Orient are*
*One in a Taxi; one in a car*
*One on a scooter, blowing his hooter*
*Following yonder star......*
(Christmas Carol, trad.)

On 29 December 2012 16:32, Chokh Raj <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> (You'll kindly excuse me for posting it again. The emphasis, of course, is
> mine.)
>
> the paradox of wisdom
>
> I'd have it said of the Magi, the three 'wise' men of the East:
>
>                             In order to arrive there,
> To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
>        You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
> In order to arrive at what you do not know
>        You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
> In order to possess what you do not possess
>        You must go by the way of dispossession.
> In order to arrive at what you are not
>        You must go through the way in which you are not.
> And what you do not know is the only thing you know
> And what you own is what you do not own
> And where you are is where you are not.
>
> Cheers,
>   CR
>
>   ------------------------------
> P <[log in to unmask]> wrote Wednesday, December 26, 2012 11:29 PM:
>
> If the magi were drawn by a power which they did not understand, what
> meaning could the power have for them? Further, why did the critics
> understand the meaning of this power so well that they thought the magi,
> who did not understand it, should not have followed it?
> Peter M.
>
>
> Tom Colket <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> Since some recent posts have involved "The Journey of the Magi," I thought
> it might be interesting to look at some correspondence TSE had about the
> poem with a friend, Alan Porter. TSE had recently published the poem (1927)
> when these letters were written.
>
> In the Letters of T.S. Eliot (vol 3), Porter's letter appears as a
> footnote. Since Porter's letter was written first, I'm posting it first,
> followed by TSE's reply.
>
> In TSE's reply, he gives us a tidbit of what he meant ("I meant that the
> Magi were drawn by a power which they did not understand"), although Peter
> will undoubtedly send in a post to tell me that TSE was only describing a
> mood and not revealing any of his intention regarding meaning.
>
> -- Tom --
>
>  ====================================
>
> From the footnote listed on page 860-861 of Letters, vol 3:
>
> (1)-Alan Porter's letter of 25 Nov. was largely devoted to his reading of
> TSE's poem Journey of the Magi; beginning from this second paragraph:
>
>    'I thought it was rather awkward and cowardly to leave you without
> saying how I had criticized "The Journey of the Magi". I took it as a very
> important poem, and tried to exhibit _why_, from the substance of what you
> wrote - not from technique or vividness or lyric quality at all. That is,
> as if you were _doing_ something, as if the poem were an action.
>
>   'And I said, "Alas for this nostalgia", very much as Richards seems to
> have said, "Hurrah for this nostalgia". Here is a myth, and you are
> remaking it, just as a Greek poet remade the myths he told. And what falls
> out of the story, what is put into it, how is it changed?
>
>   'There is no star, there are no gifts, there is actually no birth and no
> worship (or perhaps there was a birth, yes, certainly there was one; but
> not an overwhelming and ever remarkable birth).
>
>   'How would I like to see the myth? Or rather, how do 1 see it? As in
> fact the Three Magi were Zoroaster and Pythagoras and Buddha. As if the
> mysteries of the ancient world were something of supreme dignity and truth.
> As if this were the order of Melchizedec; suffering the shock of becoming
> Christian and having its meaning fulfilled, and transcended in fulfillment.
>
>   'Into Christianity came Plato and Aristotle, Trismegistus, Eleusis, the
> Vedas ... It was something to take the breath away, and make them humble;
> but are we to say they had nothing to bring, and they were left rootless
> after it had happened. I see it as if it were mankind at its firmest and
> greatest that was here confessing its insufficiency, and receiving its
> justification.
>
>   'I think you saw it as if the world were at a dead end; as if it were
> superseded rather than transcended; as if these were three more Jews, or
> rich young men.
>
>   'And if I am to take the poem as an attitude to life, I believe it would
> go like this - "The world certainly happens, and has to be accepted: but
> there is no certain perfection. It comes difficultly to us, and even
> trivially. I don't know whether there is an absolute meaning to it. I am
> forced to certain conclusions. Is there any guarantee that they are Right?
> And suppose they are right: are they very exhilarating?
>
>   'It was one of the Cairnses, I think, who used to get indignant at the
> phrase "too good to be true", holding that we should rather say "not good
> enough to be true". This looks to me like a good, buoyant, and creative
> feeling.
>
>   'Will you acquit me of impertinence in writing this? If I said
> "blasphemous", I must apologise; it was a swear word. Some-one asked me,
> "But do you think all that has anything to do with it as a _poem_"; and
> that is a point of view which is beyond me to handle.'
>
> ====================================
>
> Here is TSE's response to the Porter letter:
>
> ====================================
>
> To Alan Porter
> [London]
>
> 13 December 1927 [London]
>
> Dear Porter,
>
>   I am sorry that I did not get your letter in time to accept your
> invitation, and since I have been back I have been too busy with the
> question of the reorganisation of the Criterion to write to you. I shall be
> very busy from now until just before Christmas when I must go abroad again.
> Perhaps you will ask me again next year.
>
>   Thank you for expressing yourself so fully about my Christmas poem.(1)
> I value all that you say in praise of it, but I must say quite ingenuously
> that your interpretation of it gave me rather a shock. No doubt that is
> partly because we start with quite different fantasies of what such an
> occurrence would have been like. But as the whole story of the Magi is not,
> I believe, an essential matter of Christian doctrine, I felt a certain
> liberty to treat it according to my own fantasy of realism. I did not
> intend to put forward, and still do not believe that I did put forward, any
> view which would either conflict with Christian doctrine or any imagination
> which would tend to weaken belief. The notion that the three Magi were the
> three religious leaders whom you mention does not appeal to me because what
> little I know of their religions makes me unable to accept the imaginative
> possibility of such a tribute. I certainly do not accept the
> interpretation, interesting as it is, which you put on my verses in the
> third paragraph of your letter. If I may say so, I think that this
> interpretation is due rather to a reading of my previous verses than to
> this. I meant that the Magi were drawn by a power which they did not
> understand, and I used them as types of a kind of person who may be found
> at almost any period of history. I meant them to be pathetic as Dante's
> Virgil is pathetic.
>
>   When you speak of the Cairnses, do you mean the Cairds? I know the
> Cairnses only as a breed of terriers.
>
>   I certainly acquit you of everything if you will acquit me; but if the
> poem continues to make the impression on you that it did - then there is no
> possibility of acquitting it.
>
> Sincerely yours,
> [T. S. Eliot]
>
>  ====================================
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