Monthly Archives: December 2010

“The Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot

James Tissot, The Journey of the Magi, 1894











A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long 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 when 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 dirty 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 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 wineskins.

But there was no information, 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.


what’s your ideal day?

At the end of a lesson about daily routines and telling time, I asked my students this question. I had them write at least five things that they would do on an ideal day, instead of the usual routine things like go to school, do homework, and so on. I was reminded again of how fun it is to see what answers they come up with on their own, instead of just repeating things I say. When I sorted through the piles of notebook paper, here are some of the answers that stood out to me:

“Eat big fat fish.” -Davis

“I want to fly in the sky with many birds.” -Peter

“Take the plane to around the earth with my dog.” -Isabella

“I want to sleep on the sky.” -Nigel

“I will go to the library all day and read books; I will eat all the foods in the world; I will see Hu Jintao and tell him some advice.” -Hilary

“Take a bath 4:00-6:00 pm.” -Zhang Shun Xiang

“Have a sleepless night.” -Sunny

“I would throw my math books and my math homework.” -Sally

“I will be a policeman. I will be handsome. I will sleep and eat all the time.” -Freddy

“Get up at 10:30. Have a big turkey for breakfast. Visit White Houses at 11:30. Have a big shark for lunch. Sleep on a spaceship.” -Kitty

“No war. Air is clean. The eyes can’t broken; we don’t need glasses. Water never dirty.” -Alex

“Always play, eat, and sleep (like a pig).” -Jerry

“Eat two-hundred little tomatoes.” -Adam

“Play game with Obama.” -Dean

After reading a few hundred papers that just listed things like “eat. sleep. play computer games. no homework. have many many moneys.” it was entertaining for me to read the above items. This little exercise also helped refresh my memory of their names, because to be honest, I’ve forgotten a lot of them. They don’t put their English name cards on their desks anymore, so it was nice to put more names with faces. I think my favorite rediscovered name was “Charlie Harmsworth,” a mischievous boy in class 18 with a big smile. I can’t just call him Charlie. It has to be Charlie Harmsworth or nothing.