“Is My Son Mad?” Mary Asks

Mary and Jesus

Spiritual Sunday – Mother’s Day 

Here’s a poem about Mary as a mother trying to figure out her intelligent but very strange son. Thinking of her as a worrying mother makes her very human.

An Evening in Galilee

By Thomas Hardy

She looks far west towards Carmel, shading her eyes with her hand, 
And she then looks east to the Jordan, and the smooth Tiberias’ strand. 
“Is my son mad?” she asks; and never an answer has she, 
Save from herself, aghast at the possibility. 
“He professes as his firm faiths things far too grotesque to be true, 
And his vesture is odd — too careless for one of his fair young hue! . . . 

“He lays down doctrines as if he were old — aye, fifty at least: 
In the Temple he terrified me, opposing the very High-Priest! 
Why did he say to me, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” 
O it cuts to the heart that a child of mine thus spoke to me! 
And he said, too, “Who is my mother?” — when he knows so very well. 
He might have said, “Who is my father?” — and I’d found it hard to tell! 
That no one knows but Joseph and — one other, nor ever will; 
One who’ll not see me again. . . . How it chanced! — I dreaming no ill! . . . 

“Would he’d not mix with the lowest folk — like those fishermen — 
The while so capable, culling new knowledge, beyond our ken! . . . 
That woman of no good character, ever following him, 
Adores him if I mistake not: his wish of her is but a whim 
Of his madness, it may be, outmarking his lack of coherency; 
After his “Keep the Commandments!” to smile upon such as she! 
It is just what all those do who are wandering in their wit. 
I don’t know — dare not say — what harm may grow from it. 
O a mad son is a terrible thing; it even may lead 
To arrest, and death! . . . And how he can preach, expound, and read! 

“Here comes my husband. Shall I unveil him this tragedy-brink? 
No. He has nightmares enough. I’ll pray, and think, and think.” . . . 
She remembers she’s never put on any pot for his evening meal, 
And pondering a plea looks vaguely to south of her — towards Jezreel.

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