Neil's photostream of the Bishop's Glen this afternoon brought to mind the opening lines of Eliot's "Journey of the Magi" - lines which are themselves an adaptation from a sermon by the 17th century Bishop Launcelot Andrewes. Whether or not the Magi travelled through the snow in "the very dead of winter" doesn't really matter; what does matter in the poem is the sense of seeking, and after their discovery of the Christ child the men's bewildered inability to live at peace with the old gods to to which their countrymen still clung.
This was also in my mind when I wrote the poem "Searching", which I read at the carol service on Wednesday. It's actually a very odd experience to read your own work in public; I found myself torn between the need to convey meaning at a first hearing and the need to make it sound a cohesive poetic whole. However, I was grateful to have been asked and exhilerated by its effect on the people who spoke to me. I could get a taste for this!
We are plodding through a desert
of our own making. We,
the wise men of our time, knowing
everything and nothing, search for what
we do not understand.
The mysteries of time and space are
hidden from us no longer, but
inner space defeats us.
The vacancy offends our
proud mastery of life and death.
We who cure and kill with
profligate ease cannot bear
such painful uncertainty.
And so with each
turning year we mount our
star-led beasts and seek again
the strange child, desperately.
And some are seeking kindness
or the fleeting warmth of joy,
and some the distant music
of a half-remembered song.
But do we dare to follow
where that star-light leads,
clutching tawdry gifts as
the proof of our intent?
far beyond the stable where the
child becomes the man
the swift breath of love's passing bears
the wood scent and the tears
and the guideless journey onward
from the weeping and the tomb.