The John Edward Johnson Prize
Michael Hugh Lythgoe
Adoration of the Magi
on an oil painting by Domenico Marone, 1484,
in the Columbia Museum of Art
We know these biblical travelers.
All pilgrims & refugees must travel,
Or flee from tyrants. The faithful
Travel for their faith; these followed
A star in the East.
Not Palestine; no humble Bethlehem.
This scene is more Verona, a Roman
Town of worn stone architecture
Fourteen hundred years later,
Italian, African—opulent ruins.
The Magi arrive with an entourage
Richly appointed, exotic, Persian,
Dressed for court & castle—
A Renaissance scene. They come
With gifts, to adore the Christ Child.
See the medieval parade of red & white
Pigments, peacocks, horsemen & cherubs;
No camels. Islamic warriors with scimitar
Swords, curved bows & arrows—guardians
For Three Kings. A shepherd boy—Pan—
Holds pipes—rustic music, mythic, pagan.
Soldiers in shadows of dangerous times:
Travelers wary of enemies lying in ambush
Along the Silk Road saddle up under a star
Marking a birth, foretelling a death.