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Those Winter Sundays


Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze.  No one ever thanked him.


I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,


Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Hayden gracefully depicts a moment in one’s life when one reflects on a time where he/she did not fully appreciate or understand the unconditional love of their father. The speaker of this poem is an adult who is reflecting back to their childhood, recollecting the ways in which they had not realized that love comes in many, unobvious forms. In the first line, the phrase “Sundays too” gives the reader the impression that the father worked endlessly, not only at his weekday job, but on Sundays too, when he would chop wood early in the morning to make sure his family stayed warm through the winter. The sentence before “No one ever thanked him.” is long and drawn out, but the short and dispassionateness of this sentence adds a harsh tone to the poem, and creates the feeling that the narrator condemns their past behavior by representing it in a sharp, short way.

 “Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well.”

The narrator realizes how apathetic it was of them to speak indifferently to their father after he had done so much for their family.

What did the speaker know about love? About unconditional love? About the love that never falters, even when it is not appreciated? At the end of the poem, the speaker reaches the point where they admit how their younger self was completely aloof to the ways in which their father expressed his love for his family. Hayden’s use of austere as it relates to love in the context of this poem works beautifully with the message he is trying to send. “Love’s austere” Relates the harsh conditions of winter to the strict and plain manner in which the father shows his love . It is apparent that the family lives a life under harsh conditions, a life without the comfort of luxuries. Love’s austere describes love as being ceaseless and matter-of-fact. The use of claiming love to have austere suggests that love itself is plain and ceaseless, much like the father. Thus, at the end of the poem, the narrator has realized that their father was always full of love and showed love to his family through simple acts of service. If one were to try and find an even deeper meaning behind Hayden’s relation between the austerity of love and the speaker’s father, one might even say that the speaker is at a point where they see their father as a visual representation of what true love is– the unconditional love of a parent.



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