Stabat Mater by Sam Hunt is obtrusive by design since it is supposed to convey different levels of meaning and interpretation to the reader. To avoid making it sound simple the poet has used a peculiar structure, title and expressions. Autobiographical in meaning, it has a universal appeal beyond its subjectivity. Using a title which refers to Christian mythology, the poet gives the poem a philosophic overtone also.
His father was much older than his mother, in fact older than her own father. This made her seem to be so small to herself. It also made her continue to address him as Mr. Hunt (his surname) even after they were married. Their son, the poet, finding tit written in a book, probably her gift,
‘To dear Mr. Hunt, from his loving wife.”
questioned his mother why she addressed him thus. First ‘she was embarrassed’ to discuss it but later she explained to how hard it had been for her to call him anything else since he was even elder than her own father. She confesses that this had made her seem so small. Relatively, it would have made him look so big to her. It is hard to say whether there was a physical difference between them in reality or whether it was only what she felt.
Later in life, as the poet’s father grew older and weak, his mother ‘still like a girl’ addressed him by all sort of names and takes care of him as if he is just a child. Shakespeare calls old age second childhood. But she gives the poet signals that all this is nothing but a game.
In the last lines the poet is trying to figure out what game his mother seemed to be playing. She seems to be trying to tell him that when he matures he should learn to leave thing behind and move along. Walking away refers to journey and is a symbol of growing up. Childhood and youth are phases of our life we walk away from and long to go back to. His mother married too early in her life to an old man and then missed her youth much. In her old age she tries to act like a young girl
‘She calls my father every sort of name;’
but the presence of her ages husband doesn’t allow her to forget her situation. She is trying to reverse the clock by doing so. She makes a game of it to show her son that there is no going back in life.
She has come to the sad realization that she missed all the fun in her life. She doesn’t want her son to repeat her mistake.
This is similar to what happens in our relationship with God too. Earlier in our life we are made to revere god like a much higher being and later in life as we realize the true meaning of God and his love we continue to have the same image of Him in our mind. We try to conceive him in different ways (love for one) but we never lose the fear of God. Virgin Mary’s changing relationship with her son should be able to tell us what our own relationship with God has to be. Once we walk away or distance ourselves from God, it is hard to return.