Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Petrified Forest National Park


Arizona's most popular natural wonders include the Grand Canyon, Havasu Canyon, Grand Canyon Caves, Lake Powell/Rainbow Bridge, Petrified Forest/Painted Desert, Monument Valley, Sunset Crater, Meteor Crater, Sedona Oak Creek Canyon, Salt River Canyon, Superstition Mountains, Picacho Peak State Park, Saguaro National Park, Chiricahua National Monument, and the Colorado River. Oh! and don't forget the reconstructed London Bridge at Lake Havasu City! Today some 18 million tourists a year visit the state, two million of whom are (not counting bleepin' snowbirds) visitors from other countries. I was trying to decide between doing a write up about the Grand Canyon National Monument or the Petrified Forest National Park. My husband said Do the one about the Petrified Forest! Nobody knows about it, most people have not even have heard of it I would even bet you 90% of the people in the United States have even ever heard of it. It might even be higher than that! Most people in Arizona haven't heard of it! Well that may be a bit exaggerated but when we visited it there weren't very many people. Certainly fewer that the over crowded Grand Canyon but just as breathtakingly beautiful! It was surprising to learn that over a million people visit the park annually with peak visitations occurring in the summer months.

President Teddy Roosevelt signed the proclamation making the 93,532.57 acre forest a national monument on December 8, 1906. In 1962 congress made it a national park. It's a Rock hound's Paradise! Did you know that the movie The Painted Desert starring Clark Gable and William Boyd was filmed at the park in 1931 and five years later Betty Davis and Humphrey Bogart made another movie called what else? The Petrified Forest! And guess what? Petrified wood (Araucarioxylon arizonicum) is the official state fossil of Arizona! Most petrified wood comes from the Petrified Forest right here in the Mojave Desert.

I visited there as a little girl and remember wanting to pick up a piece of petrified wood as a keepsake. Thankfully today people are prevented from picking them up, if everyone did that pretty soon there wouldn't be a Petrified Forest anymore. In the early 1900's, so many were removing the the wood from the area that this led to calls for preserving areas with large deposits of it. The park exists for this purpose and there is no collecting or giving out of samples permitted. Dad bought me one from a commercial dealer who do their collecting outside the park. Many artisans collect and make beautiful objects with them. It wasn't until April 2001 that it was removed from the National Parks Conservation Association top ten most-threatened list. In the early days of the park, tourists were constantly taking logs from the desert floor to keep as souvenirs. They were removing 12 tons of petrified wood each year in violation of federal law. Don't take any of the wood, not even a small piece because you just might regret it. Make sure to visit the Rainbow Forest Museum before you leave. Along with the exhibits they have what is referred to as "conscience letters" displayed on the wall. These are from people who have stolen petrified wood from the park and feel obligated to return it, sometimes even sixty years later. One man made a bolo tie (the official state tie of Arizona) from his stolen petrified wood, and he returned it in its altered state. Another woman smuggled three pieces out of the park in her bra, returned two of them (keeping one to remind her of her mistake) AND sent $0.20 for the park to buy more petrified wood--from whom, I don't know.

Within the Petrified Forest National Park is The Painted Desert also called the Chinle Formation of the Late Triassic Period composed of wonderful colorations and hues. On top if that there are several archeological sites and displays of 225 million-year-old fossils in an expanse of badland hills, flat-topped mesas and buttes. The land is arid, heavily eroded by the desert winds and has very little vegetation.

    The landforms of the Painted Desert have been described as a multicolored layer cake. The variety of hues in the sandstone and mudstone layers of the Chinle Formation is the result of the varying mineral content in the sediments and the rate at which the sediments were laid down. When sediments are deposited slowly, oxides of iron and (hematite) aluminum become concentrated in the soil. These concentrations create the red, orange, and pink colors you see at the north end of the park. During a rapid sediment buildup such as a flooding event, oxygen is removed from the soil forming the blue, gray, and lavender layers.
You weren't expecting petrified trees where petrified birds perch singing petrified songs were you? You can feast your eyes on the multihued sandstone battlements abruptly raising from the vibrant sandy sea. Row upon row of silty-gray mounds emerge from the earth split by layers of pink, orange, mauve, and purple sediments that change color with every angle of the sun or drifting cloud. Here and there, the hillsides are adorned with brick red colored boulders the size of box cars. And, scattered about plain and hillside alike are the remains of broken fossilized trees that give the park its name. It's a land that time forgot, but now, through tectonics and erosion, has exposed itself again.

Most of the trees today are lying about in broken sections of various sizes. The Agate Bridge, which is really a petrified tree and not related at all to the London Bridge in any way, is the largest specimen. But watch out for hoodoo's! A geomorphologist paraphrases the Apache legend about how the Creator let loose a great Deluge when He was upset with the earth and decided to start over. He favored the Apache, and was willing to give them shelter. However, a group of greedy and evil men took advantage, and rushed up to the hills without helping the young, the elders, and the women from the approaching flood. The Creator was so angered with them, that He punished them by turning them into stone as they stood on the ridges. Thus, the hoodoos are the petrified men who abandoned their tribe. Who do I think I'm fooling! It sounds a lot like the biblical story of Noah and the flood doesn't it? Actually they are formed when a hard top crust of sediment is eroded in areas exposing the soft rock underneath which then erodes rapidly. The hard crust remains in parts protecting the soft rock underneath and forms a pillar, or a hoodoo. Some of them are quite large. Hoodoos are common in areas of badland , the most well known are found in Bryce Canyon National Park. There are a few that lurk around the Petrified Forest too, only the "cap rock" on the hoodoos is petrified wood. These are entombed in the soft, easily eroded Chinle Formations. The petrified logs and stumps, protect the underlying rock, producing some very elongated and somewhat squat hoodoos.

At one time the area was a great floodland with large copses of trees like Araucarioxylon, Woodworthia and Schilderia that fell during the frequent flooding and washed down stream where they were covered by silt, mud, and volcanic ash. Sealed in the airless tombs the log decayed slowly and eventually ground water containing silica seeped in surrounding the tissue of the wood and crystallized into mineral quartz preserving the tree as petrified wood. That was about 225 million years ago during the late Triassic period. After that the land sank where it flooded with freshwater and covered with sediments. Later the land was lifted above sea level and the wind and rain eroded the now stressed and fractured trees leaving them exposed on the terrain along with other fossilized animal and plant remains

Petrification occurs when the tissue of ancient trees become complexly replaced by minerals. This is called permineralization. When the branches and trunks become stone, details of ancient plants become quite remarkable. Sometimes when they are preserved in amber the cell structure is protected so perfectly that DNA fragments within them can be extracted and sequenced.

The area was mapped by the United States Army in the mid 1800's and soon word spread about trees that had turned to stone and the beautiful Painted Desert. Archeologists have discovered that the area has been inhabited by humans for well over two thousand years. There were several individual occupations with potsherds, rubble, and pictures that tell a story of transitions from nomadic families to agricultural settlements, pueblos and trading with nearby villages until 1400 AD when these civilizations all seem to fade away.

There are literally thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs scattered around the American southwest. Newspaper Rock in the Petrified Forest an interesting example. It's the name given to a huge boulder that is covered with these drawings by ancient Indian tribes. Even though the rock itself is at the bottom of a cliff and hard to access on foot, the petroglyphs are easily seen using binoculars. Patterns of circles and images of animals are etched or painted onto the rocks for reasons archeologists aren't completely sure yet but studies have revealed a few clues.. It's known that around the time that Francisco Vásquez Coronado came through Arizona in the mid fifteen hundreds the area was pretty much uninhabited. However only a few hundred years earlier there were a group of people who belonged to the Ancestral Pueblo People that farmed the area and occupied up to 600 known sites in the Petrified Forest. One scientist, Bob Preston has spent the last two decades studying the sites and the images left behind. He is convinced that many of them were used as a solar calender and function much the same way today as they did years ago by tracking the sun across the sky through the interplay of sunlight on the petroglyph. Over the last 16 years he has identified about 120 examples of similar solstice events at more than 50 petroglyph sites in Arizona, New Mexico and southern Utah. He calls them "solar observatories." One web site explains how they work:

    In 1977 a spiral petroglyph at Chaco Canyon National Monument was discovered which displayed a precise interaction with sunlight at the time of summer solstice by means of a narrow shaft of sunlight that moved down a shadowed rock face to bisect the center of a large spiral petroglyph. Subsequent observations found that on winter solstice and equinoxes there were intriguing interactions of sunlit shafts with the large spiral and a smaller spiral nearby. No other example of a sunlight interaction with prehistoric or historic petroglyphs was known at this time. However, there was a tradition of Pueblo sun watching in historic times, particularly of the varying sunrise and sunset positions throughout the year, to set the dates for ceremonies.

    Shadows and sunlit images are found to move across petroglyphs due to other rocks being in the path of the sun's rays. As the sun's path across the sky changes throughout the year, the positions of the shadows and sunlit images change on the petroglyph panels. In many cases the petroglyphs have been placed on the rock faces in just the right position so that specific interactions occur on the solstices. The most common types of petroglyphs on which solsitial interactions have been identified are spirals and circles.These consistent interactions may involve a point of sunlight or shadow piercing the center or tracing the edge of a spiral or circular petroglyph; or shadow lines may suddenly appear or disappear at the center or edges of the petroglyph; or they may move up to the center or edge and then retreat. It is not uncommon for a single petroglyph to display multiple interactions of this type, either on the same solstice or on each of the solstices. In fact, at one site, there are five circular and spiral petroglyphs that show 15 interactions on the both solstices.

How fascinating! Archeology and astronomy all rolled into one. A small window into the ancient peoples of the desert as they watched these slow motion movies through the seasons. To make a petroglyph they would look for a rock covered with what is called "desert varnish." The surface of the rock is dark and when scratched the lighter rock underneath created a contrasting image. The varnish on the rock is caused over a long period of time becoming a filmy layer of organic components made mostly out of a thin coating of iron or manganese, and bacteria. These petroglyphic images have been classified into six categories: anthropomorphs, zoomorphs, kachinas, hands\tracks, geometrics, and indeterminate.
  • Anthropomorphs and Kachinas represent the human form. Anthropomorphic figures may have complete bodies but generally lack facial features. Kachinas often take the form of heads or masks and most have facial features.
  • Zoomorphs include large and small animals, reptiles, and birds. Look closely and you will see cougars, birds, lizards, snakes, bats, coyotes, and rabbits on petroglyph panels at Petrified Forest.
  • Hands and tracks include bear paws, bird tracks, cloven hooves and human feet or hand prints. Some human tracks even appear in pairs.
  • Geometrics consist of textile and pottery designs, spirals, circles, and other geometric shapes. You will see many of these elements at Puerco Pueblo and Newspaper Rock.
  • Indeterminates may be simple doodles or might be a picture to commemorate a special event in a life or the community.

Paleontologists are slowly reconstructing the Triassic ecosystem by piecing together fossil records. The creatures that wandered the vast forest of the period were crocodile-like reptiles, giant fish-eating amphibians and small dinosaurs living among a variety of ferns and cycads. Exhibits in the Rainbow Forest Museum at the park include freestanding casts of some Triassic Period reptiles and displays on early dinosaurs.

  • Placerias was a large, bulky plant-eating reptile weighing up to 2 tons. It had strong but toothless jaws and probably lived on a diet of tough, fibrous plants. The large tusks may have been used to dig up roots and tubers for food. Belonging to a group known as phytosaurs, fossils indicate that some individuals reached 30 feet in length. They lived a crocodile-like life in the rivers and lakes preying on fish and smaller animals. Bony plates protected the body and tail.
  • Desmatosuchas was a 16-foot long, plant-eating reptile that sported a long, pig like snout and looked like an overgrown armadillo. A bony carapace (shell) covered the long narrow body and large spikes on its sides were probably used for defense.
  • Chindesaurus was an early primitive dinosaur. It was 8 to 12 feet long from head to tail, with sharp, sickle-shaped teeth indicating a meat diet. Lightly built with exceptionally long hind legs, it may have been one of the fastest land-dwellers in this area. This speed helped it overtake its prey.
  • Coelophysis was one of the early known dinosaurs. It was about 8 feet long and could weigh 50 pounds. Long slender jaws lined with sharp, flattened teeth indicate it was carnivorous. This agile animal probably walked on its hind limbs and used its forelimbs to catch and hold prey. Large eye sockets suggest keen eyesight. This ferocious looking reptile was a large land-dwelling predator. It moved in a dinosaur-like way with its legs tucked under its body not sprawled out to the side like most reptiles. A medium sized animal was about 13 feet long.
There are no established trails so hiking is a cross country trek. The weather ranges from the 90's to low 100's during the day to the 30's and 40's at night. There are summer time thunderstorms and the possibility of flash floods so check the weather. It's a wide open range and perfect for cross county hiking. With rabies and hantavirus it's best to avoid contact with any animals living or dead. For you herpatologist fans the petrified forest is also home to the milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori), Arizona's rarest snake. If you come across a fossil leave it in place and report it to one of the rangers. It's a piece to a giant puzzle of time for documanting and studied for clues to the past in this fascinating area. Make sure to bring enough water at least a gallon per person on hot days and wear a wide brimmed hat with long sleeves since there is almost no shade. Watch out for poisonous desert dwellers too! Look but don't touch. Make sure to check crevasses and under shady rocks for any critters before putting your hands in there or sitting down for a rest. Shaking out clothing will help avoid scorpions, spiders, and centipedes. Overnight camping is free but a permit is required. Only back pack wilderness camping is allowed but there are campsites outside the park.

How to get there:

The Petrified Forest National Park is located in east central Arizona near Holbrook, (the land of petrified everything for sale), a 27 mile road runs through the Park, from the I-40 exit number 311 to US 180. Open from 8am to 5pm every day except Christmas. No reservations are needed and fees range for a five days pass from five dollars for hikers and bikers to ten dollars for private vehicles.

Sources:

Hoodoo

Petrified National Forest

Picture Source

Praline Syrup

2¼ Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
1 ½ Cup Water
3/4 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Teaspoon Maple Flavor
Pinch Salt
1 Tablespoon Oleo

Combine sugar, water, and salt, bring to a boil and boil two minutes. Remove from heat, stir in oleo and flavorings
Optional: Stir in 3/4 cup finely chopped Pecans

A handy recipe to have on hand when if you run out of syrup.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair --
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin --
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all: --
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all --
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all --
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . tired . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a
platter,
I am no prophet -- and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all" --
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say, "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along
the floor --
And this, and so much more? --
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all."

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous --
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
T. S. Eliot
Not considered by some scholars as Eliot's best poem, Prufock is probably his best-known, readers enjoy it because it seems to express the anti-social angst it affects. It is not as complicated a poem as one would think, but I missed some important points and thought some explanatory notes might be of interest.

The Italian preface to the poem is from Dante's Comedia, canto 27 of the Inferno.

John Ciardi's translation of these lines is:
    If I believed that my reply were made
    to one who could ever climb to the world again,
    this flame would shake no more. But since no shade
    ever returned -- if what I am told is true --
    from this blind world into the living light
    without fear of dishonor I can answer you;

Prufrock's confession is like that of a condemned soul in hell and the reasoning behind it is that even complaining is hopeless. The poem is full of striking and meaningful lines:

In this example,when Prufrock says he should have been a crab he is speaking about moving backwards, which is just what he desires to do, but cannot. There's a line in Hamlet that this most likely refers as well where the terrible shock of his father's murder has gotten Hamlet to thinking, probably for the first time in his young and idealistic life, about the irreversible reality of death. However, rather than openly drive home the link between Hamlet's passivity and his preoccupation with death and decay toward the purpose of tragedy, to the reader, Prufrok's meaning is hidden and mysterious, having to be drawn out by critical thinking . "Nor was meant to be," calls up an association with Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be? — That is the question." Unable to decide, Prufrok is asking a question about establishing of the relationship with the woman is "not to be." Then on another level, he is hazards that he is not "meant to be," implying that he is meant after all to merely exist and never really participate in life.

Allusion is present here too as a verse reference to a character in another literary work. T. S. Eliot alludes or refers to the biblical figure John the Baptist in the line,

    Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter...

Taken from Mark 6 where John the Baptist's head was presented to King Herod on a platter.

It was surprising to learn that Eliot was twenty two years old when he wrote this piece. At the the heart of the poem is the fretting of a middle aged man, the complacency of his social contacts; his own incapability, indecisiveness and decomposition; and incapable of redemption of a life that is going the wrong way and will not be turned around. And in this fashion he can be put in with other poets of decadence.

The first couple of lines earned Eliot immediate recognition as an extremely capable writer when they were published in 1917. Using older more traditional styles he worked them in combination with vers libre creating a whole new rhythm that had never before been heard and the effect of reading it aloud is quite impressive.

Sources:

Advanced Placement Literature and Composition Literary Terms & Concepts
accessed August 22, 2003.

Public domain text taken from the Poet's Corner

TS Eliot - The Academy of American Poets
accessed August 22,2003.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Easter 1916

    I HAVE met them at close of day
    Coming with vivid faces
    From counter or desk among grey
    Eighteenth-century houses.
    I have passed with a nod of the head
    Or polite meaningless words,
    Or have lingered awhile and said
    Polite meaningless words,
    And thought before I had done
    Of a mocking tale or a gibe
    To please a companion
    Around the fire at the club,
    Being certain that they and I
    But lived where motley is worn:
    All changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.

    That woman's days were spent
    In ignorant good will,
    Her nights in argument
    Until her voice grew shrill.
    What voice more sweet than hers
    When young and beautiful,
    She rode to harriers?
    This man had kept a school
    And rode our winged horse.
    This other his helper and friend
    Was coming into his force;
    He might have won fame in the end,
    So sensitive his nature seemed,
    So daring and sweet his thought.
    This other man I had dreamed
    A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
    He had done most bitter wrong
    To some who are near my heart,
    Yet I number him in the song;
    He, too, has resigned his part
    In the casual comedy;
    He, too, has been changed in his turn,
    Transformed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.

    Hearts with one purpose alone
    Through summer and winter seem
    Enchanted to a stone
    To trouble the living stream.
    The horse that comes from the road.
    The rider, the birds that range
    From cloud to tumbling cloud,
    Minute by minute change;
    A shadow of cloud on the stream
    Changes minute by minute;
    A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
    And a horse plashes within it
    Where long-legged moor-hens dive,
    And hens to moor-cocks call.
    Minute by minute they live:
    The stone's in the midst of all.

    Too long a sacrifice
    Can make a stone of the heart.
    O when may it suffice?
    That is heaven's part, our part
    To murmur name upon name,
    As a mother names her child
    When sleep at last has come
    On limbs that had run wild.
    What is it but nightfall?
    No, no, not night but death;
    Was it needless death after all?
    For England may keep faith
    For all that is done and said.
    We know their dream; enough
    To know they dreamed and are dead.
    And what if excess of love
    Bewildered them till they died?
    I write it out in a verse --
    MacDonagh and MacBride
    And Connolly and Pearse
    Now and in time to be,
    Wherever green is worn,
    Are changed, changed utterly:
    A terrible beauty is born.
    September 25, 1916
    William Butler Yeats

After years of occupation a spark of nationalism occurred in Ireland during World War I. Ireland was unhappy about sending it's men to war because the Mother Country said so. Frustrated The Easter Rising was a protest against British rule and the participants were members of the Irish Volunteers, a parliamentary force formed during the crisis over the home rule bill of 1912.

England reacted by suspending home rule bringing about a meaningless and violent rebellion. From the 1890's, nationalism found expression in the Irish Literary Renaissance and one of the leaders of this movement was the poet William Butler Yeats.

An important event in Yeat's lifetime, he wrote this long piece approximately six months after it occurred in 1916. On April 24th a group from the Irish Volunteers of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, approximately seven hundred in all, took possession of central Dublin over a period of five days. When defeated the leaders were for the most part summarily executed. On May 11th, Yeats wrote a letter to Lady Augusta Gregory that said in part:

    "I had no idea that any public event could so deeply move me -- and I am very despondent about the future. At the moment I feel that all the work of years has been overturned, all the bringing together of classes, all the freeing of Irish literature and criticism from politics."

Yeat's poem is his personal appraisal of the Uprising. The first stanza Yeats creates the scene referring to the actors in this event They are the Revolutionaries in an everyday general sense setting the tone as he the author is remote, an observer of the unfolding events. The lines:

    "being certain that they and I
    But lived where Motley is worn"

form a striking portrait of people play acting in contrast to the impending and all to real savagery. The last two lines of the first stanza are among the most notable in twentieth century literature....

The second stanza begins to describe the significance, events, and people of the uprising. Yeat's knew the four leaders of the Rebellion personally. That woman in the first few lines is the wife of Count Markievicz, Constance Gore-Booth. She is the subject of another of Yeat's best poems, "In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz". She was condemned to death for partaking in the uprising but she was later freed when her sentence was commuted.

This man who had kept a school was Padraig Pearse, a published poet of the day, a founder of St. Enda's School and, for the Easter week, President of the provisional government.

This other man was Thomas MacDonagh who adored the Celtic language, taught at Pearse's school and was a friend Yeats held in high regard.

The second other man however, is one whom Yeats held in great contempt. He was a one Major John MacBride a soldier in the war against England in South Africa and whom had married Maud Gonne (the woman Yeats loved) only to....according to Yeat's, 'cruelly divorce' her. This misfortune must have seemed to Yeats especially wonderful.

Transformation and beauty is born in the third and final stanza. A litany of the failed revolt the conception of hearts "enchanted to a stone" becomes not only central to the rest of this poem but represents a change of focus in Yeats' view of Irish politics. The passions of revolutionary politics had stymied Yeats personal and artistic goals at every turn for the past twenty five years. Yeats creates the stone and it becomes a product, as well as a symbol of the Cause.....'a cause of turbulence in the stream and the condition of the hearts of those who gave their whole existence to it'. The next stanza depicts this turning point of Yeat's politics...... it has transformed from things which rely upon the events to something incapable of being avoided, the deaths of ..

    "MacDonagh and MacBride
    And Connolly and Pearse"

...are the inescapable effect.

At the time England had promised home rule to the middle-class Irish and The Easter Rising was not immediately well received since there were well over one hundred thousand Irishmen serving in the British Army. By the time Yeats published his Easter 1916 the stone had gained enough momentum that it could not be turned. A terrible beauty was born, and as Yeats says near the end of his piece "England may keep faith" it was too late, the swift and deplorable execution of the leaders by then had turned them into martyrs.


Public Domain text taken from the Poet's Corner

Some information was gathered from Poet's Corner

Josephus

The knowledge of the life of Josephus, Flavius ( 37-ca. 100 CE) comes directly from his own writings, four of which have survived. A history of war called The Jewish War comprised of seven books, in which he attempts to dissuade his people and other nations from courting annihilation by extending their revolts against the all powerful Roman Empire. A history of the Jews from the creation up to the war (66 CE)where he movingly describes how his people had flourished under God's law. An autobiography called Life and a defence of Judaism Against Apion where he refutes the charges made against the Jews made by the anti-Semitic Greek grammarian Apion (fl. 1st cent.) and other writers of similar opinions. Against Apion is his most invaluable contribution, because Josephus recapitulates writings on Jewish history, religious life and culture that are no longer in existence. A key to understanding the last two pre-Christian and first post-Christian centuries. So influential is his work in playing a role in the developing culture of the Radical Reformation that the Puritans who arrived in New England owned in addition to their Bibles the writings of Josephus.

Born Joseph ben Matthias his life can be separated into two parts: the controversial and dramatic years in Judea and the years he spent living in Rome as the client and some sources say as a prisoner of the Flavian emperors. Born in Jerusalem he spent his adolescence in the wilds as a member of the Essenes, a monastic brotherhood of Jews in Palestine who practiced from the 2d century B.C. to the 2d century A.D. Josephus found their devotion to scripture and ascetic way of life romantic.

As he matured he aligned himself with the Pharisees and played an important role in the revolt by the Zealots (qv). This led to the ambiguity and often conflicting accounts in the writings of Josephus. Beginning in 66 CE during the revolt against Rome by the Zealots he was appointed as general to take charge of the defence of Galilee (in what is now Israel). In one account he writes that he took charge of the forces there to lead the Galilean phase and yet in another later accounting he writes that he sought to prevent the revolt rather than play an role in leading it. The end results of his preparations were negated when Vespasian overran the Jewish forces. By Jospehus telling this defeat was because of the superior forces of the Roman army and tactical skills of their leader. But detractors declared that Jospehus had been a traitor and the Roman victory was from some form of treachery committed by Josephus himself; this suspicion of Josephus would follow him for the rest of his life. Josephus and some of companions escaped the besieged town of Jopata and formed a suicide pact to escape capture of the Romans. Somehow Jospehus managed to become the lone survivor of this scheme and them promptly surrendered to the Romans. Whichever story may be true Josephus did succeed in preparing Galilee for the coming onslaught in 67 and valorously repulsed Vespasian for a time. Having proven his military abilities with his 47 day defence of Jopata garnered him the respect and later a prized position with Vespian. He would have been sent as a prisoner to Nero had he not possessed the wit to prophecy that his captor, Vespasian would one day be an emperor. The prophecy aligned with Vespasian's ambitions and when this prophecy came true Vespasian chose to keep Josephus by his side most likely saving his life. Thus adopting the family name of Flavius from Vespasian he later found himself in the position of accompanying another future emperor Titus, the son of Vespasian. It was during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus that he came to witness and record its subjugation in 70 CE.

Spending the remainder of his years under their royal patronage he discovered the Romans had a great interest in Judaism and Jewish history. He first earned their attentions by devoting himself as a skilled historian. Producing his works under the name Josephus, Flavius he wrote about The Jewish War in seven books in order the set the scene, describing how the Jewish people and the history of their unrest beginning two hundred and fifty years in the past up to the great rebellion. His account of the war then takes two directions managing to depict the heroism and courage of the Jewish defenders of Jerusalem and at the same time magnify the deeds of the Roman generals.

The Romans whose interests were now flattered as welll as piqued about the history of the Jews, Jospehus set about writing a rather lack luster but exceedingly comprehensive accounting. In the first ten books of The Jewish Antiquities he expands and embellishes his own paraphrasing of their history and the Hebrew Bible, supplanting his narrative with Jewish lore known as Haggadah and further combines relevant Greek sources. In the second series of Antiquities, Josephus commits his writings to the rise and reign of Herod the Great using to a large extent the writings of the secretary to Herod, Nicolas of Damascus.

After his charming reply to Apion in his Against Apion where he defends the Jewish people and their religion to these ancient slanders of the Jewish people, at last, Josephus presented his autobiography. Originally a part of the Antiquities most of which relates again what was written in The Jewish War but with more information as the authors dispute with a rival historian Justus of Tiberius. Josephus enjoyed imperial patronage of his final days with the Romans under Titus and later his brother and successor Domitian until his death in Rome around 98 - 100 CE.

Sources:

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Josephus, Flavius," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993.

Xrefer:

The knowledge of the life of Josephus, Flavius ( 37-ca. 100 CE) comes directly from his own writings, four of which have survived. A history of war called The Jewish War comprised of seven books, in which he attempts to dissuade his people and other nations from courting annihilation by extending their revolts against the all powerful Roman Empire. A history of the Jews from the creation up to the war (66 CE)where he movingly describes how his people had flourished under God's law. An autobiography called Life and a defence of Judaism Against Apion where he refutes the charges made against the Jews made by the anti-Semitic Greek grammarian Apion (fl. 1st cent.) and other writers of similar opinions. Against Apion is his most invaluable contribution, because Josephus recapitulates writings on Jewish history, religious life and culture that are no longer in existence. A key to understanding the last two pre-Christian and first post-Christian centuries. So influential is his work in playing a role in the developing culture of the Radical Reformation that the Puritans who arrived in New England owned in addition to their Bibles the writings of Josephus.

Born Joseph ben Matthias his life can be separated into two parts: the controversial and dramatic years in Judea and the years he spent living in Rome as the client and some sources say as a prisoner of the Flavian emperors. Born in Jerusalem he spent his adolescence in the wilds as a member of the Essenes, a monastic brotherhood of Jews in Palestine who practiced from the 2d century B.C. to the 2d century A.D. Josephus found their devotion to scripture and ascetic way of life romantic.

As he matured he aligned himself with the Pharisees and played an important role in the revolt by the Zealots (qv). This led to the ambiguity and often conflicting accounts in the writings of Josephus. Beginning in 66 CE during the revolt against Rome by the Zealots he was appointed as general to take charge of the defence of Galilee (in what is now Israel). In one account he writes that he took charge of the forces there to lead the Galilean phase and yet in another later accounting he writes that he sought to prevent the revolt rather than play an role in leading it. The end results of his preparations were negated when Vespasian overran the Jewish forces. By Jospehus telling this defeat was because of the superior forces of the Roman army and tactical skills of their leader. But detractors declared that Jospehus had been a traitor and the Roman victory was from some form of treachery committed by Josephus himself; this suspicion of Josephus would follow him for the rest of his life. Josephus and some of companions escaped the besieged town of Jopata and formed a suicide pact to escape capture of the Romans. Somehow Jospehus managed to become the lone survivor of this scheme and them promptly surrendered to the Romans. Whichever story may be true Josephus did succeed in preparing Galilee for the coming onslaught in 67 and valorously repulsed Vespasian for a time. Having proven his military abilities with his 47 day defence of Jopata garnered him the respect and later a prized position with Vespian. He would have been sent as a prisoner to Nero had he not possessed the wit to prophecy that his captor, Vespasian would one day be an emperor. The prophecy aligned with Vespasian's ambitions and when this prophecy came true Vespasian chose to keep Josephus by his side most likely saving his life. Thus adopting the family name of Flavius from Vespasian he later found himself in the position of accompanying another future emperor Titus, the son of Vespasian. It was during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus that he came to witness and record its subjugation in 70 CE.

Spending the remainder of his years under their royal patronage he discovered the Romans had a great interest in Judaism and Jewish history. He first earned their attentions by devoting himself as a skilled historian. Producing his works under the name Josephus, Flavius he wrote about The Jewish War in seven books in order the set the scene, describing how the Jewish people and the history of their unrest beginning two hundred and fifty years in the past up to the great rebellion. His account of the war then takes two directions managing to depict the heroism and courage of the Jewish defenders of Jerusalem and at the same time magnify the deeds of the Roman generals.

The Romans whose interests were now flattered as well as piqued about the history of the Jews, Jospehus set about writing a rather lack luster but exceedingly comprehensive accounting. In the first ten books of The Jewish Antiquities he expands and embellishes his own paraphrasing of their history and the Hebrew Bible, supplanting his narrative with Jewish lore known as Haggadah and further combines relevant Greek sources. In the second series of Antiquities, Josephus commits his writings to the rise and reign of Herod the Great using to a large extent the writings of the secretary to Herod, Nicolas of Damascus.

After his charming reply to Apion in his Against Apion where he defends the Jewish people and their religion to these ancient slanders of the Jewish people, at last, Josephus presented his autobiography. Originally a part of the Antiquities most of which relates again what was written in The Jewish War but with more information as the authors dispute with a rival historian Justus of Tiberius. Josephus enjoyed imperial patronage of his final days with the Romans under Titus and later his brother and successor Domitian until his death in Rome around 98 - 100 CE.

Sources:

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Josephus, Flavius," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993.

Xrefer

The Crucifixion of Christ


There are many common misconceptions about the crucifixion of Jesus among secular communities. Most modern Christians endeavor to use critical methods in studying the New Testament, but the purpose is not to attempt to write a life of Jesus in the contemporary sense of a psychological study; the objective is to reconstruct the barest outline of his career and to give some account of his teachings and message. Most reasonable thinking people would agree that to blame all Jews for the crucifixion of Christ makes about as much sense as holding all Italians responsible because Pontius Pilate was Roman, that kind of discourse is nothing more than the lowest form of bigotry.

Numerous Christologies give emphasis to the divine initiative in the execution of Christ understanding it as a previous custom, as a sacrifice, like that of the Day of Atonement or that of the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Succeeding references to "blood" in connection with the death of Christ repeat both these traditions. Blood denotes not a material substance but the event of Christ's death in its saving significance.

Approaches to Biblical authority have been many and wide-ranging. The Bible speaks of inspiration or divine breath as the source of vitality and power. Genesis 2:7 asserts that the Lord God "breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life, and man became a living being." Ezekiel 37:10 says the lifeless bones that "the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet." So Paul can say, "Our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in the Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 1: 5. The implication is that, just as divine inspiration had made the prophetic message a living one, so the words of scripture are signposts to something that goes beyond words.

Liberal denigration of the Bible in the 19th century seemed to many to chip away at the authority that had been attached to scripture. Many have linked the notion of verbal inspiration with inerrancy and infallibility, but its significance, that while Martin Luther can speak of the Bible as "the Holy Spirit's very own book" with "God.... In every syllable," he can also affirm that mistakes and inconsistencies do not affect the heart of the gospel. "The Holy Spirit," he affirms, "has an eye only to the substance and is not bound by words." Many Christians agree that inspiration is no guarantee against human fallibility, nor does it affirm uniformity in quality and authority. There are levels in scripture: the kernel is encased in a shell; the baby lies in a manger.

To hear the Bible merely as a compendium of ancient literature and to limit oneself to critical, historical study of its contents would be a denial of the believer's experience that in the Bible they have found the word of God addressing them with "transforming and liberating power" as Thomas Merton put it. If Christianity is a religion of the spirit rather than the letter (2 Corinthians 3:6), we should expect a range of diversity in interpretation. There must also be a subjective element in interpretation just as there was in the writing. The more one brings of human experience, spiritual sensitivity, and common sense to the Bible the more one will get from it. Hence, to recognize the authority of the Bible is to respond to the imperatives made by the God of the Bible. For in due course what is looked for is an encounter not with words but with a person.

To address the main topic of this node one first has to take a look back at what crucifixion was. The Oxford Companion To The Bible defines it as:

    The act of nailing or binding a person to a cross or tree, whether for executing or for exposing the corpse.
Considered a brutal and most appalling form of capital punishment many ancient historians by the likes of Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus wrote about the assorted types used by the Assyrians, Scythians, Phoenicians and Persians (Ezra 6:11). The institution of crucifixion was incorporated by Alexander the Great and his descendants, and in particular by the Romans, who reserved if for slaves in cases of robbery and rebellion. There was only one reason in Roman law whereby a citizen of Rome could be crucified and that was for the crime of treason. Josephus noted mass crucifixions in Judea under a number of Roman prefects, most particularly Titus during the siege of Jerusalem; the same also happened in the Jewish quarter of Alexandria, according to Philo. Before the execution the victim was scourged (Mark 5: 15), required to bear the transverse beam (patibulum) to the place of execution (John 19: 17), was then nailed to it through the hands and feet to the cross (Luke 24:39); John 20:25), from which a wooden peg protruded to support the body; some of these literary details are established by archeological findings of the bones of crucifixion victims.

Jewish law doesn't elaborate as to whether or not crucifixion was a practice of capital punishment. There may be a suggestion that crucifixions occured within the Jewish community in Deuteronomy 21: 22-23, which calls for persons to be put to death saying they 'must be hung on a tree and buried on the same day.' The Temple Scroll of Qumran also spells out penalties that amount to crucifixion for the crime of high treason, for example, if an Israelite curses his people or delivers it to a foreign nation. In rabbinic writings " crucifixion is the death penalty for "robbers" (bandits {t. Sanh. 9:7 Qoh Rab. 7:26 (190b}) and for martyrs (Gen. Rab. 65 {141a}; Mek. 68b). Isaac, carrying the wood for his sacrifice, was compared to a man bearing the cross on his shoulders (Gen Rab. 56 {118b}). Similarly, a disciple of Jesus must take up his cross and follow him (Mark 8:34 par.; Matt. 10:38 )."

Jesus arrived from Galilee to continue his ministry in Jerusalem preaching and teaching. His adversaries became engaged in conflicts with him, but these conflicts, Mark indicates, were of a different manner from previous ones in Galilee. By now Jesus is a marked man and his enemies' anger him on explicit issues, looking to ensnare him into self-incrimination. John also depicts Jesus as infuriated with theological clashes among religious authorities in the city.

Jesus' challenge reaches its pinnacle with his entry to Jerusalem and the "cleansing" of the Temple. Among the Synoptic writers; John shifts the "cleansing" for theological reasons to the beginning of the ministry and it's not precisely clear what the issues were that led the Sanhedrin's to plot Jesus' execution. (For the plot read Mark 14:1-2; 10-11; John 11 :45-54). The Synoptic credits the conspiracy against Jesus to the Sanhedrin's response to the temple cleansing (Mark 11: 18) While John makes a less persuasive case for conspiracy based upon Jesus' raising of Lazarus even though it's John's report about the Sanhedrin meeting (John 11:47-53) that appears to bear additional support on reliable tradition: the Sanhedrin decided to get rid of Jesus out of fear that disturbance of the peace would give way to Roman interference destroying the fragile balance between Jewish and Roman power.

Following the more plausible account of John, on the eve of Passover, Jesus celebrated a farewell meal with his disciples During the meal he interpreted his impending death as the climax of his life of self-giving service. (Luke 22:24 –27; cf. John 12:1-11; Mark 10:42 –45a may have initially belonged in this framework). The literal words that Jesus spoke over the bread and cup are impossible to recover due to an assortment of accounts of the institution that have been colored by liturgical developments in the post-Easter community. However, all agree that Jesus coupled the bread with his body or his person and the wine with his blood as the significance for the giving of his life in death. In addition it is the unilaterally agreed among all Christians that his death was an inauguration of a new covenant, assuring his disciples that beyond his death lay the coming of the kingdom of God. (Mark 14:25; Luke 22: 15-18).

The disciples and Jesus went out to the garden of Gethsemane after their supper (Mark 14:32: John 18:1) where the Temple police arrested him, and as well if John is correct, by Roman soldiers proof that indicates the priestly party and the Roman prefect were in close collusion over the affair. A preliminary investigation was held before the Jewish authorities (Mark 14:53-64; John 18: 12-14, 19-24 is thought to be more accurate) Less of a formal trial, it was similar to a grand jury proceeding. They found with their inquiries to their satisfaction that there was enough support to justify an indictment of high treason before Pilate's court (Mark 15:1-15).

By bringing Jesus before Pilate (Mark 15: 1) the members of the Sanhedrin could anticipate a sentence of "death by crucifixion," under the assertion that claiming to be the Messiah was an act of rebellion against Rome. It's for this reason that Jesus was compared to the revolutionary Barabbas (Mark 15: 7-27) After the people asked for Barabbas release Pilate had no other option that to crucify Jesus, who was scourged, mocked by the legionaries and crucified together with two "robbers. "

The mockery in which Jesus' guilt is repeated may have been meant to make him understand his error and lead him to a confession of sins. Even so his first words from the cross were, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."(Luke 23:34); his was a willing sacrifice for others. While he was put on the cross by Roman soldiers the burial in the evening of that day was done by a Jew in accordance to Deuteronomy 21:23. (Mark 12: 42-46 ; John 19: 31) Deuteronomy 21: 22-23 is also related to the crucifixion by Paul in Galatians 3: 13, since a person hanging on a tree is cursed by God, the cross of Jesus became a stumbling block for Jews.

According to Matthew 20: 19 and 26 Jesus said that once delivered to the gentiles he would suffer crucifixion. The predictions of suffering by Jesus were not necessarily prophecies after the fact. The inscription on the cross told all who were witness to his death that Jesus was crucified as "King of the Jews" (Mark 15: 26) In his trial before the high priest (Mark 14: 62) and before Pilate (Mark 15: 2), Jesus had admitted to being the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. It was the members of the Sanhedrin who proclaimed Jesus deserved the death penalty because he had uttered blasphemy (Mark 14: 61-64); they must have taken to mean Deuteronomy 21: 22-23 in a like manner of the Temple Scroll (cf. John 19: 7,15) A false messiah could deliver the people of Israel and the Temple to the gentiles (John 11: 48-50). The Babylonian Talmud affirms this judgment based on Deuteronomy 13: 1-11 that Jesus was executed because he had led Israel astray.

Jesus was condemned to death as a messianic pretender, taken out to Golgotha and crucified alongside two criminals guilty of sedition. (Mark 15: 20-32: John 19: 16-19). Jesus died later that day and was buried according to gospel tradition, by sympathizers (Mark 15: 42-47: John 19: 38-42). This marked the end of his earthly career.

Noung's write up cites the scripture as one that has been used frequently to support a historical foundation for Anti- Semitism:

    "All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"
    (Matthew 27: 25.
This cry for Jesus' blood has caused untold pain and Christians have used it to justify oppression of Jews. By the time Jesus was nailed to the cross, practically everyone had denied, rejected and vilified him. The spirit and meaning in Matthew's words displays how all had deserted Jesus. The guilt is common and great; responsibility is universal.

Sources:

The Bible. Revised Standard Version.

Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford Companion To The Bible. Oxford University Press, New York, 1993.p. 66-67. p 141- 142. p 359-360.

Picture Source:
Christ Crucified is a 1632 painting of the Crucifixion of Jesus by Diego Velázquez, currently in the Museo del Prado.