A Poem Full of Spiritual Symbolism

Adoração dos Magos (Adoration of the Magi), Domingos Sequeira, 1828


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.

William Butler Yeats


The Magi is a poem about people who, upon reaching old age, or perhaps just older age, turn to God and the spiritual world for fulfillment and happiness. This poem is quite aptly named The Magi, as the term “magi” refers to the three wise men of biblical times. The three wise men were rich and powerful in their own right, yet they chose to honor the Baby Jesus. Likewise, these people are wealthy, learned and successful and are turning to God for solace. They are choosing to honor and revere him in the hopes of finding everlasting peace and happiness. After writing The Dolls, Yeats looked up into the blue sky and imagined that he could see “stiff figures in procession”. Perhaps after imagining these figures, Yeats debated within himself whom these pictures could represent. Yeats then went on to write The Magi, a poem which is full of symbolism, a literary technique that he greatly valued.

Perhaps Yeats wrote this poem out of frustration with his own life. Maybe he felt that he also was one of the “pale, unsatisfied ones”. He may have been struggling with the strains brought upon him by success. He may also have been going through a time of indecision in regards to his own spiritual life. Whatever the reason for his writing The Magi, Yeats wrote a poem rich in symbolism and imagery that many people could then, and can now, relate to on a very personal level.

One thought on “A Poem Full of Spiritual Symbolism

  1. I took a class in Yeats, Elliot, and Pound years ago. One of the most beneficial classes I ever did take. Theirs are some of the few paper books I’ve kept. I just pulled a collection of Yeats from my shelf. Thanks for reminding me it’s there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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