Nationality – Mary Gilmore – Analysis


I have grown passed hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
And all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

Mary Gilmore (1865 -1962)

This is a simple two stanza one sentence poem with the second and final line of each stanza rhyming. However, it does contain some deep philosophical thought.

S1 … The first line indicates that this poem may have been written late in her life. To see the world as one and not take sides. Forget the goodies and the baddies we are all both. She saw the world as one; to be inclusive of all peoples, to accept everyone. But this means to accept the ‘sinner’ but not the ‘sin’. Mary Gilmore hated sin and worked for social justice and was involved in many community issues as well as the emancipation of women. To hate the sin and not the sinner takes effort.

And the world is becoming one as borders are diminishing in significance. There is more mobility between nations due to refugee migration and increased international travel. Electronic communication is another strong factor negating border significance. How best to deal with any loss of national identity is another matter. Some nations are perhaps feeling quite threatened by such loss and are reluctant to adjust to change.

The last line of this stanza gives emphasis to family, her son. We cannot treat everybody we meet the same. We will always bias our actions in favour of family and friends. These sinners will get preferential treatment in our lives but, of course, hating their sins.

Equally there is a bias towards our own nationality.

S2 … If all humanity sit at God’s table to be fed, and if we have bread whether from God or ourselves then we have a natural tendency for giving and sharing with our family. In this poem specifically the mother son relationship. MG had one son.

This poem puts nationality into perspective, often nationality is too dominant in the progression of self-interest.

Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia.

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