Study Guide

Those Winter Sundays Sacrifice

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Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, (1-2)

Here the speaker introduces his father. The little “too” in the first line tells us that his father gets up early every single morning of his life. He sacrifices his sleep every day for the benefit of his family. Just think of the yawning.

then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. (3-5)

Now we find out even more about his pops. Not only does he wake up early, he also works doing manual labor (hence those aching, cracked hands) every day. And to top it off, none of his family members thank or even acknowledge him. Way to go, family. We are not envious of this dude’s life. Not one bit.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well. (7-12)

In contrast to his cold dad, the speaker gets to luxuriate in warmth and wake up at a normal hour. Once again, we find out that he’s indifferent to his father—no hugs of gratitude here, even though the speaker’s dad has warmed up the house and shined some shoes. Speaker! Get a clue.

What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices? (13-14)

Here, the speaker finally acknowledges his father’s sacrifices for his family. He didn’t understand them back in the day, but now, he understands how much his pops did for his family—that these kinds of sacrifices were an expression of love, even if they weren't all that eloquent.

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