THE BALLAD OF JOKING JESUS
~ by Oliver St. John Gogarty
I’m the queerest young fellow that ever was heard,
My mother’s a Jew, my father’s a Bird,
With Joseph the Joiner I cannot agree,
So “Here’s to Disciples and Calvary.”
If anyone thinks that I amn’t divine
He gets no free drinks when I’m making the wine
But have to drink water and wish it were plain
That I make when the wine becomes water again.
My methods are new and are causing surprise,
To make the blind see I throw dust in their eyes
To signify clearly there must be a cod
If the Commons will enter the Kingdom of God.
Now you know I don’t swim and you know I don’t skate,
I came down to the ferry one day and was late,
So I walked on the water and all cried, in faith!
For a Jewman it’s better than having to bathe.
Whenever I enter in triumph and pass
You’ll see that my triumph is due to an ass,
And public support is a grand sinecure
When you once get the public to pity the poor.
Then give up your cabin and ask them for bread
And they’ll give you a stone habitation instead
With fine grounds to walk in and raincoat to wear
And the sheep will go naked before you go bare.
The more men are wretched the more you will rule
But thunder out “Sinner” to each bloody fool,
For the Kingdom of God that’s within you begins
When you once make a fellow acknowledge he sins.
Rebellion anticipate timely by “Hope,”
And stories of Judas and Peter the Pope
And you’ll find that you’ll never be left in the lurch
By Children of Sorrows and Mother the Church.
Goodbye now, Goodbye, you are sure to be fed,
You will come on My Grave when I rise from the Dead,
What’s bred in the bone cannot fail me to fly
And Olivet’s breezy– Goodbye, now, Goodbye.
Things Jesus says when he is merry. Or the Gospel according to Gogarty.
Oliver St. John Gogarty as a young man writes this as a lark, presenting the mythic divinity of Jesus via the waggery and flippancy of Irish irreverence. This style of humor consists of dancing a jig beneath the gallows tree. Gogarty has Jesus disputing his parentage, that of his father Joseph, curing the blind by throwing dust in their eyes and conning the populace for their own good, arriving late for the ferry and walking on water at the Sea Of Galilee, making water into wine at the Cana marriage feast, also remaking the wine into water via the kidneys, then taking flight off the Mount Of Olives at the end, a resurrection from death and an ascension into heaven. The whole thing has the jocular mode of a drinking song. And it is, of course, blasphemy. (As well, it sanctions undisguised anti-semitic hatred.)
In the first chapter of Ulysses, James Joyce references “The Ballad Of Joking Jesus,” as the character Buck Mulligan– based on Gogarty as an arrogant young medical student– recites a few lines. But here we have Gogarty’s entire text, preserved by Joyce’s biographer, Richard Ellman.
Some mostly unnecessary notes: “my father’s a Bird” alludes to the “BVM,” the Blessed Virgin Mary, being made “with child,” pregnant, by the divine intervention of the “Holy Spirit” incarnated as a dove, a messenger from God in Heaven. “Calvary” is the site of Christ’s execution outside Jerusalem. “Joseph the Joiner” is the carpenter Joseph who married Mary of Nazareth and became the father of Jesus. The slang term “cod,” used by Gogarty here, means hoax. “Peter the Pope” refers to the Apostle Peter of biblical times, later the first titular head of the church, who like Judas was disloyal, betraying Jesus at the time of The Last Supper. (Peter, too, was crucified by the Roman authorities, as was his successor as pope, the Apostle Paul.) The “Commons” is here equated with the public at large, including all average people without much money, property or privilege. The “Children of Sorrows” alludes, I believe, to several pre-Christian Irish legends about beautiful youths fated by tyrrany to be unable to live out their romantic dreams, notably “Deidre Of The Sorrows.” Rebellion “by Hope” may refer to James Hope (1764-1847) the legendary outlaw leader of United Irishmen who survived both of the failed rebellions against England in 1798 and 1803. Jemmy Hope was a radically socialist egalitarian, a revolutionary, an inspiration to the populace, and a survivor dedicated to keeping hope alive. All the other leaders of the rebellions were executed (as was Robert Emmett, for example) by hanging– and then beheading for good measure.