“Journey of the Magi” can be read and perceived on many different levels. The imagery, while when first read is easy to understand, may be researched to find deeper meaning. Since the poem was written in the year of Eliot’s own conversion to Christianity, the quest of the Magi for the Christ child can be seen as a parallel to Eliot’s own religious quest.
The first five lines of “Journey of the Magi” describe the hardships of their journey (Barbour 190-191). I think these five lines also refer to the difficulty of Eliot’s conversion to Christianity. Lines 2-4 express the hardships that have been endured through Eliot’s life and the Magi’s journey. “Winter” expresses a feeling of death and despair. It shows that the Magi are losing or have lost all hope throughout life. The camels lying down in the melting snow reinforces the enormous difficulties the Magi face.
Line 8 refers to things they had endured and would like to change. Palaces on slopes, terraces, and silken girls bringing sherbet represent a loss of accommodation. The Magi were use to the luxuries of their lifestyles. The description of “the men cursing and grumbling”, “and wanting their liquor and women” represent the shame and regret of sinful ways.
The “temperate valley” indicates that a change has come about. The Magi go from a feeling of despair to finally reaching their destination. “Beating the darkness” represents the Magi overcoming their hardships. Michael P. Dean points out the early morning descent into a “temperate valley” evokes three significant Christian events: “The nativity and all the attendant ideas of the dawning of a new era...the empty tomb of Easter...as well the image of the Second Coming and the return of Christ from the East, dispelling darkness as the Sun of Righteousness (Confrontation with Christianity” 77). James A. Wohlpart adds that the Magi