May 30, 2006
Poem: "For All" by Gary Snyder from The Gary Snyder Reader. © Counterpoint. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.
I pledge allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of director Howard Hawks, born in Goshen, Indiana (1896). When asked about his style as a filmmaker, he said, "I just aim ... at the actors."
It was on this day in 1431 that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy in Rouen, France. She was an ordinary French peasant girl, living during the Hundred Years War between France and England. When she was still a teenager, she heard the voice of God telling her to join the battle and help defeat the English army. She performed a series of apparent miracles and persuaded the French army to let her command a group of soldiers. At the battle of Orleans, she led the French army, bearing a flag with Jesus' name written across it, and the English were defeated. She continued fighting battles until May 23, 1430, when she was captured by enemy soldiers. They turned her over to the church to be tried as a heretic, idolater and sorcerer.
Her trial lasted for months. Every day she was brought into the interrogation room, where she was the only woman among judges, priests, soldiers, and guards. The judges hoped to trick her into saying something that would incriminate her as a witch, so they asked endless questions about all aspects of her life, in no particular order. They were especially interested in her childhood, and because the transcripts of the trial were recorded, we now know more about her early life than any other common person of her time.
She testified that she had learned from her mother how to pray and how to clean the house, and that she was an excellent sewer and spinner. She talked about the games she played as a child, the songs she sang and the way she and other children danced around a particular tree in their town. She pointed out that she preferred singing to dancing. She said that she'd always loved the sound of bells ringing in her town, and she was greatly upset whenever the bell wasn't rung on schedule. She said that many of the people in her village believed in fairies, and that her godmother claimed to have seen a fairy once, but she doubted it. She said that she first started hearing divine voices when she as thirteen, while working in her father's garden.
After months of questioning, she was told that if she didn't sign a confession, she would be put to death. She finally signed it, but a few days later she renounced the confession, and on this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake. She was nineteen years old.
She was mostly forgotten for about 400 years, and then she was revived as a patriotic figure during the French revolution. In 1920 she was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict the Fifteenth. She is the only person ever burned at the stake for heresy who later became a saint.
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