Across shimmering wastelands and beneath endless skies,
Where the scorpion lurks, where the grim vulture flies,
Where the trail’s swept trackless by the djinn in the breeze,
Where mirages conjure mad cities or seas,
Where the silence can roar, and the day’s brilliance pierce,
And the heat bind and batter with savagery fierce,
Where the dust of vast ages softly whispers or drones,
And man’s passing is marked by a scattering of bones—
There once trekked a caravan of travellers from far,
Neither nomads nor merchants but chasing a star.
From what cities of splendour and stately renown,
From what proud, ancient realms had these travellers come?
In what rites were they schooled, and from which antique store
Of parchments and scrolls had they gathered their lore?
And what history had formed them and given them birth,
Or what stories directed their purpose on earth?
And then why did they voyage across oceans of sands
And under the swirling stars seek out new lands?
Deepest mystery prevails—all that’s known is one thing:
They were chasing a star in their search for a king.
After traversing wilderness vacant and vast,
They entered the land of Judea at last,
Where a city of kings famed in story and song
Had already endured for a thousand years long.
As they climbed through dry hills to that citadel high,
They saw Zion take shape, etched against the bright sky.
As they joined with the crowds that were thronging inside,
To their quest they still bent and would not be denied,
And so to the three-towered palace they came
To seek news from its occupant—Herod by name.
When they entered those courts, was the star still in sight?
Were there dark clouds concealing its radiant light?
Or did bright palace lamps lure those travellers away,
While the star, disregarded, remained on display?
No matter: they left with a second clear guide,
For the Scriptures of Israel had long prophesied
That a ruler of justice and power would come
From obscure, lowly birth in the town Bethlehem.
Even Herod himself then professed a desire
In their footsteps to follow and see this Messiah.
Those men, with their guile-free hearts, left in joy,
Never thinking that Herod had crafted a ploy
To ensure that the king they’d come so far to see
Might be coolly destroyed with utmost urgency.
Still ahead, like a beacon, arose in the night
The star of their travels with gladdening light.
Whether angel or comet or supernova flare,
Or uniquely and transiently made to appear
At that time, in that place, for those travellers alone,
It led right to the site where the new king was born.
Who knows if their entrance provoked a great stir,
With the whole town in ferment to know who they were?
Or did they steal in under cover of night
As whispering shadows beneath the starlight?
In the gloom of a room in some rustic abode,
At the crib of an infant those travellers bowed.
Not once did they falter at such a bare sight;
They had faith that the star and the Scriptures were right.
With the scent of their spices and gleam of their gold,
They worshipped the one that those Scriptures foretold.
Then they took a new route for the long journey home,
To elude scheming Herod, as warned in a dream,
And like scattering birds swept ahead of a storm,
Those Magi, the child and his family were gone
By the time Herod’s troops burst upon the small town
To ruthlessly strike every infant boy down.
What became of those men and their star is a mystery:
Engulfed by a void in the annals of history,
They tracklessly vanished beneath endless skies
In the shimmering wastes where the grim vulture flies.
Where now are those seekers who came from far lands?
Are they just bones entombed or mere dust in the sands?
Were the prophecies false? Did the grand promise fail?
Is this story no more than some traveller’s tale?
Today we can see that the child whom the star
Led those wise men to worship is greater by far
Than all others who’ve lived and died under the sun:
He alone died and rose—and his resurrection,
Like the hinge of all history, means the story of Earth
Was turned round and turned right; so that strange, humble birth
Was the dawn of a new age that’s coming for sure,
When those for whom once only death lay in store
Will live without end in a world of pure love
With that king born on earth but from heaven above.
He invites and accepts without limit or bar
All who seek him as did those who once chased his star.
By Anne Woodcock
Anne is married to Pete Woodcock and works as an Editor for The Good Book company.
Anne has written a poem for every month of the year in 2019 which you can read on the Cornerstone blog.