There are some interesting poetic meditations on the Epiphany, one of those moments in the Christian calendar when the divine and the earthly coincide. In Muriel Spark’s rendition of the story, which was probably influenced by T. S. Eliot’s version, the three kings haven’t fully grasped what they’ve seen. Their demonstrating subjects who claim they no longer need kings are not just making a political statement. A new kind of king has entered the world, a spiritual one rather than a secular one. Indeed “king” is a misleading metaphor, even though it is regularly applied to Christ. Its use in monarchical societies is driven by a poetic need to use contemporary associations to emphasize spirituality’s ascendency.
To further emphasize this point, it is key that kings have witnessed divinity entering the world. Mere shepherds don’t count.
The kings in the poem wonder where they go from here. It’s a good question, put to us most bluntly during the Christmas and Easter seasons but before us always.
The Three Kings
By Muriel Spark
Where do we go from here?
We left our country,
Followed a star.
We were questioned.
We reached our objective.
We enjoyed the trip.
Then we came back by a different way.
And now the people are demonstrating in the streets.
They say they don’t need the Kings any more.
They did very well in our absence.
Everything was all right without us.
They are out on the streets with placards:
Wise Men? What’s wise about them?
There are plenty of Wise Men,
And who needs them? -and so on.
Perhaps they will be better off without us,
But where do we go from here?
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