on waiting for the fifth day

As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.
The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. —
Matt 27:57-66

There’s a scene from the the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers: the heroes are trapped inside a castle, surrounded by the bad guys. The bad guys, called the Uruk Hai, are these big, monstrous warriors, there’s an army of them, and they’re all six feet tall. They bellow and roar like wild animals, oh and they eat people. The good guys are three heroes: a man, an elf, and a dwarf, and they’re trying to help a bunch of farmers defend their castle. You gotta feel sorry for the farmers too, because they’re clearly no match for their enemies, and we the audience have spent, oh I don’t know, the past 10 hours watching the Uruk Hai slaughter and butcher them like pigs. And you know, if the bad guys break into the castle, not only will the heroes die, all the farmers’ wives and kids will also die. Continue reading “on waiting for the fifth day”

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for Mrs Stevens

A poem for an old English teacher of mine, Mrs Stevens. As I understand it she passed away in the first week of May 2016.

When I heard you’d gone, the sky was blue.
Just that morning it was a rainstorm,
Mayhem, parents calling,
Observatory be damned –
Kids sulking, tempers strained
We want to go home!
Focus! Sit down!
Why are they only telling us now?
Then I heard you’d gone.
How many times did you have to do this?
How many years since you’d heard us sulk?
I wrote a quick eulogy for you,
To my kids –
A pang of guilt – why should I gain from your death?
But the kids are home now, the staff room’s quiet
I’m tired, I think about you
I go to the window and look out
And I remember
The sky was blue when I heard you’d gone.

fate epilogue: tradition is the king of all

I was at the busy port of Halicarnassus one day, when I stopped at the city square to listen to a storyteller. He told grand tales of the magnificent kings of Persia who dwelt in gleaming palaces, who demanded tribute from thousands of kinds of people: gold from the Indians, warhorses from the Medes, jewels from the Aghans, silver from the Egyptians, soldiers from the wildmen of the north. These great kings never showed their faces to the common people, and even the princes and nobles at his court could not laugh or spit in his presence. They had to cover their mouths when they were around him, in order not to pollute the air that the Great King breathed. Now I myself take these fairytales lightly. If no one has ever seen the king, where do these stories come from? But one particular story struck my fancy. Continue reading “fate epilogue: tradition is the king of all”

fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos

When Polycrates, ruler of Samos died, a victim of his own greed, his power and riches passed to his steward Maeandrius.

Now Maeandrius was a good man, who wanted nothing more than justice for the Samians. He assembled them and said to them, “People of Samos, you know that all the authority held by Polycrates has passed on to me. If I wanted to, I could rule all of you as he has done. But I do not wish to, for I refuse to lord it over people equal to myself. I will proclaim everyone equal before the law. All I ask in return is a share in Polycrates’ riches, and the right for my family and I to serve as priests.” Continue reading “fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos”

fate pt 5: the fate of Polycrates

Nestled in the shadow of the Persian Empire was the island of Samos. The Samians were a proud people, good sailors. Now the rulership of Samos had fallen into the hands of one man, Polycrates, son of Aiaces, a king in all but name.

In those days the emerald waters of the eastern Aegean Sea were not yet completely ruled by the Great King of Persia. So this Polycrates, with his magnificent wealth, became the greatest of the seafaring kings. He had built for himself a fleet of one hundred warships, and an army of one thousand paid bowmen. Everywhere he sent his fleet he met with victory; he could rob any island he wanted, then return what he had stolen as a sign of friendship. Continue reading “fate pt 5: the fate of Polycrates”

fate pt 4: the death of King Cyrus

When King Cyrus the Great was approaching the end of his days, he was consumed with desire to conquer the wild horsemen of the north. Queen Tomyris of the sun-worshipping Massagetae was his next target. Her husband had died and now she was the sole ruler of her people. So King Cyrus asked for her hand in marriage. But she refused, for Tomyris was wise as she was fair. She knew that it was not her, but her people, that Cyrus wanted. “King of the Persians,” she wrote to him, “I know that you are a great and powerful man. Do not covet my land, for it will end badly for you. Rule your own people, and let me rule mine.” Now the lands of the Massagetae were wide and empty; a man could ride for days and not see a single tree, lake or mountain. Entire armies could be swallowed up by the wilderness. Yet such was the desire of King Cyrus, that he gathered his army and marched to conquer Tomyris and her people. Continue reading “fate pt 4: the death of King Cyrus”

fate pt 1: the happiest of men

[This is a project I’ve been working on and off for several years now, a collection of ancient short stories (mostly adapted from Herodotus and Livy), under the working title The Happiest of Men. These are grouped into four chapters: Fate, Law, Sacrifice, and Love. Every week for the next few months I will be posting a new story until the epilogue and then the afterword. Without further ado, enjoy!]

King Croesus ruled the land of the Lydians, and he was the richest king of all. His city of Sardis gleamed with shining gold and white marble, and his palaces and temples were the envy of the world. Even the wisemen of Athens, who loved wisdom more than gold, came to see his city.

One day the greatest wiseman of them all, Solon, came to visit King Croesus. Croesus was very flattered, and now he wanted to be praised. So he showed Solon the wonders of his kingdom, and then asked him, “My friend, who do you think is the happiest man you have ever seen?” He was expecting to hear, “You, o King.” Continue reading “fate pt 1: the happiest of men”

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