The tone or mood shifts throughout the entire poem. Tone is a little bit harder to pick up on when your looking for changes in mood. The tone is important because it gives the reader a subconscious feeling of how the poem is going to and how they feel about it. Eliot uses mood to submerge the readers mind into the plot, characters, and scenes. If it weren’t for tone, the story would be very tasteless and hard to enjoy. In the first section of the poem the tone is rough and uncomfortable sounding. The Magi are very uneasy at the beginning of the journey. It talks about the fires going out, the villages being dirty, and lack of shelters for them to stay in which forced them to sleep on the snowy ground. One of the Magi even says, “A hard time we had of it” (16).
In the second section, the tone shifts; both the cadence and images are softer and more flowing. The lines start to become longer and looser as they continuously accumulate detail. The tone shifts for the last time in the final section. The speaker’s voice starts to become weary as he recalls seeing both the birth and the death of Jesus (Ruby 116). Line breaks interrupt the flow of thought in a way that they do not in the first two sections. The final word in several of the lines consist of a single syllable which creates a harsher and more abrupt attitude. The final word in three separate lines, including the last one, is “death.” Just like the Magi, the lines are also no longer at ease. It is no surprise that the speaker of a poem can set the tone of a story by the way they talk and by the way that they perceive what is going on. In other poems like “Gerontion” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Eliot also uses older men as the speakers. “I suggest, rather, that old men continually recur in Eliot’s early satiric works because old age illustrates so well the human inability to evolve from dysfunctional ways, just like the problems old dogs have learning new tricks” (Lake 117).
The structure of the poem is 3 stanzas set up in non-rhyming pairs. The first stanza is longer than the following two which serves the purpose to set up the journey and also show the reader what context it is taking place in. The second and third stanzas convey the realization of one of the wise mens’ new religion and new way of life. The last stanza reflects on the journey and the purpose that it had. Eliot uses parallel structure which helps to create the cadence or rhythm of the poem. The verbs cursing, grumbling, running, and wanting in lines 11 & 12 are examples of words used to create parallel structure. Something that is unique about this poem is that it is written in free verse which means that it does not use a regular meter or rhyme scheme. Instead of using a normal metric pattern, Eliot decided to establish the poem’s rhythm by using the quotation from Lancelot Andrewes. The poem’s overall structure is written in a way that makes it easy to read and follow.
Eliot does a fantastic job using figurative language in “Journey of the Magi.” The poem is literally full of figurative language and other types of language that can be analyzed on different levels. This is probably the easiest element to pick out of a story because the language catches your eye and makes you think about it. It is not uncommon to find great figurative language in many of Eliot’s other poems. Personification gives human qualities to some of the things the Magi encounter like “the cities hostile
and the towns unfriendly” (14). This gives the reader an idea of the towns they traveled through. Another type of figurative language used is metaphors. Eliot uses metaphors in the poem to make the reader think about the deeper meaning of what he is saying. The entire poem is a metaphor in itself because it is about a spiritual journey that we all must make. Alliteration is used in the first few lines to help the story’s rhythm. Examples of alliteration in the poem are “ways,” “weather,” and “winter.” This adds effect and emphasizes whats going on during the journey.
The “Journey of the Magi” is a great poem that should be read by everybody with a love for poetry. This award winning poem reflects the Christian beliefs that T.S. Eliot believed in and thought was important. Every element used in this poem helps give the reader a better and more clear understanding of what the journey was like. Although Eliot was not around when Jesus was born, he uses symbolism, tone, structure, and figurative language to tell a realistic and enjoyable story for the reader.