The task of any lyric poetry is to make the reader empathize and sympathize with the main character or characters. The main theme of lyric poetry is the theme of love. Love can be expressed in its various embodiments, namely, the love between a man and a woman, a mother and her child, and a father and his child. Except the love, lyric poetry gives a description of many other feelings of its characters, among which there are addiction or indifference, tenderness or cruelty, and malice or kindness. Despite its small size, a lyric poem called “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayek is of great interest. Even though the poem has many sad memories that can make the reader depressed, it is sensitive and sincere because it evokes a wide range of feelings in the reader's heart and soul.
The Content and the Meaning of the Work
“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayek, first published in 1962, is an autobiographical poem, which “presents memories of how his father expressed love for him through his actions” (Cummings n.p.). Its main peculiarity is that, despite its small size and brevity, the poem is able to tell the reader a lot from the childhood of Robert Hayek. Each line of the poem expresses a reach pithiness, which allows one to receive a lot of information. The narrator begins his story with the fact, “Sundays too my father got up early.” Thus, the word Sundays plays a particular role, as well as the word too. It is interesting what the author wants to say with these words. It is obvious that the narrator’s father is forced to get up early not only on weekdays, but also on weekends, including Sunday.
From the very first line, the reader can feel sympathy and regret towards the narrator’s father, who does not have the rest at all as, even on weekends, he must get up early. The second line only reinforces these inner feelings as one learns that the man is not only faced with the problem of early awakening, but also with the problem of severe cold, which the author expresses using the collocation “blueblack cold”. Indeed, the predawn frosty cold cannot be described better than with the word blueblack since the moment of transition from night to dawn can be called blueblack. The word contains a cold in itself. This description destroys the reader’s hope on positive continuation of the poem because there is nothing to laugh at. With every line, the picture becomes even gloomier.
The third line continues strengthening the pity towards the father of the narrator. It becomes clear that the man performs heavy physical work in the cold. It is the reason that his poor hands are chapped. The author conveys the torment of the man with the following passage, “then with cracked hands that ached” (“Those Winter Sundays”). The next line explains why the man should get up every morning, including weekends. He does it in order to make "banked fires blaze" (“Those Winter Sundays”). It turns out that the man who works hard and does not have rest even in weekends must get up early in the morning in order to heat the house. This man is admirable. “He lights all of the fires in the fireplaces to warm up the house so that no one else in his family will have to haul their butts out of bed in the blueblack cold” (“Those Winter Sundays”).
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The reader is portrayed as a caring father of the family. Unfortunately, no one appreciates his care. The phrase “No one ever thanked him” allows the reader to draw two conclusions. First, the narrator except his father has other family members. Second, they do not show any gratitude towards his father. The reader does feel sorry for the man as he/she begins to realize that the man’s misery is caused not only by the external inconveniences, but also by his inner psychological suffering. As a result, he is deprived of love and understanding of the members of his family including the narrator.
Thanks to the efforts of his father, the narrator always wakes up in a warm house. However, this warm house cannot save the family from “chronic angers” as they accompany the life of the family all the time. If the first part of the poem causes the reader feels sympathetic to the narrator’s father, all subsequent lines make the reader feel sorry for the narrator also. The storyteller confesses his inner psychological pain and suffering. Despite the care of his father, the family atmosphere is full of conflicts, misunderstanding, and alienation. The narrator grows up in an atmosphere where all family members are indifferent to each other, and only the caring father provides the stability of the family. I believe that the reader understands that the father’s care was expressed, not in heating the house and cleaning his son’s shoes. These were only small examples of his faithful love and care for his family.
The narrator admits with regret the fact that he was indifferent to his father. He did not appreciate his care, love, and attention. The years have passed, and now, when his father is beside him, the narrator deeply regrets it. In my opinion, the significance of everything that the narrator tells the reader about his father is to explain how he feels about his father now. Now, he feels gratitude and love towards his parent. However, he deeply regrets that he failed to express his love and appreciation to a dear man when he could do it. The narrator does not explain what prevented him; whether it was his tender age, or his inability to express his feelings. Perhaps, he does not know himself. Nevertheless, it does not really matter. “The repetition of ‘What did I know’ reinforces his regret but the final question, ostensibly posed by the narrator to himself, invites our own reflection on ‘love's austere and lonely offices’” (Clark n.p.). In all likelihood, the narrator is very sorry about how he treated his father for the simple reason: his father is dead.
I think that this lyric poem might be considered a masterpiece literary. The extraordinary talent of Robert Hayek allowed him to tell the reader about his father and feelings which he had to him as a child and which he has now as a grown man with only a few lines. This poem is the narrator's confession, in which he eventually reveals his love for his father. Thus, the main themes of the poem are the themes of love and regret.
The philosophical orientation of the poem is that it attracts the reader’s attention to the inability to change the past and the need to appreciate what one has. Moreover, it can be considered as a deductive poem. The author tries to show the reader the need to express love, care, and attention towards family and beloved people. The author asserts that nothing is better than the love between native people! This poem is not only a personal confession of the author, but also a call to love the family because no one knows how long it will be with him/her.