This is a short lyric poem about the speaker’s childhood. The speaker remembers how his father made all those sacrifices for him. The poem’s view point compares that of a boy and the perspective of him as an adult. According to the first line, there is an action that precedes the anecdote. As the poem suggests, the father wakes up early every day of the week to do work, including Sundays. Robert Hayden, the author, uses imagery and diction to help describe the scene.
The diction helps exemplify the imagery even better, the reader can sense how the speaker’s home felt like as well as the father’s hard work. The speaker awakens to the "splintering, breaking" of the coldness. This allows the audience to feel a sense of how cold it was in the speaker’s house. One can infer that the poem is set in a cold city or town during the winter, which gives the reader an idea of how cold it might be. “Slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house,” represents how the father battles to keep the family away from harm of the cold and darkness, implying that the speaker grew up in poverty. His father’s “cracked hands” shows how hard his father worked to keep his family safe.
The concluding couplet, "what did I know/ of love's austere and lonely offices?” loops back to “No one ever thanked him”, in that his father did back breaking work and no one regarded his work. Austere means in a cold manner, while the word "offices" means duties. The speaker did not realize his father’s sacrifices until now, as an adult, and didn’t thank his father for his love. The title is a good fit for the poem because the entirety of the poem is about Sundays in winter during the speaker’s childhood. The poem is composed of three stanzas of five to seven lines each.
This lyrical poem uses direct language, clear and precise. Hayden’s diction allows the reader to get a sense of the family’s life style; that they live in poverty and go to church on Sundays. The poem is centered on one question: “what did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?” The majority of the poem is examples of “love’s austere and lonely offices”. One such example would be when the boy polishes his shoes, probably getting ready to go to church. The father, although poor, still passes on good values to his son by going to church on Sundays. Another example would be the father waking up earlier than the rest of the house to get it warmed up. He deeply cares and loves his family and doesn’t want them to suffer in the cold and darkness as long as possible (only suffer at night). Another example of the father’s love is when he wakes up earlier and gets the wood from the cold outside weather to keep the family and house warm instead of enlisting for help from his family.