Epiphany and Magi: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

The Magi in the House of Herod by James Tissot

The Magi in the House of Herod by James Tissot

While yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany at Mass, today is the traditional date for the feast. Twelfth Night, the original end of the twelve days of Christmas.

In celebration, I thought I’d offer two more poems about the Magi, the wise kings from the East who sought a star, who sought a king, who sought God.

The Magi

By William Butler Yeats

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 depths 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.

Epiphany Poem

The red king
Came to a great water. He said,
Here the journey ends.
No keel or skipper on this shore.

The yellow king
Halted under a hill. He said,
Turn the camels round.
Beyond, ice summits only.

The black king
Knocked on a city gate. He said,
All roads stop here.
These are gravestones, no inn.

The three kings
Met under a dry star.
There, at midnight,
The star began its singing.

The three kings
Suffered salt, snow, skulls.
They suffered the silence
Before the first word.

—“Epiphany Poem,” George Mackay Brown

4 Responses to Epiphany and Magi: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

  1. Charlotte January 6, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Very interesting picture. Can’t wait to show my kids. Just out of curiosity, I thought Twelfth Night was the night before the Epiphany. That if Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas, then January 5th is the 12th, that evening is the Twelfth Night and then we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Is that not so?

    • Melanie Bettinelli January 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      Charlotte,

      I’m sure you’re right. I hadn’t thought the dates through. I suppose Twelfth Night is really like Epiphany Eve?

  2. LeighAnna January 11, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    “Epiphany Poem” is so powerful, especially that ending! I love all these epiphany poems you’ve posted. They’re inspiring me to revisit a poem I started last year about epiphany but gave up on. 🙂

    • Melanie Bettinelli January 11, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      I was just saying in another conversation that I think there’s nothing like reading poetry to make us want to write it. Thinking of it specifically in the context of an discussion about the merits of formally teaching creative writing vs just feeding children a diet that includes large helpings of poetry and then letting them write when they feel inspired. But it’s true for adults too.

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