Modern poets often reflect back on their childhood relationships with their fathers. Some poets see their fathers with a new found appreciation, some may look at them with acceptance, and still others are trying to move past the emotional grip a father may have had on them.
Some poets see their father with a new found appreciation. For example, in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” the narrator expresses his appreciation for his father when he poses the question: “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices?” (Hayden 13-14). As a child, it is hard to gain an appreciation for one’s father because one does not think about how much a father does for his child. When the speaker grows older, he reflects on his childhood and realizes how much his father has done for him. Everything that the father did for his son and family was done out of love, and the father did not gain any recognition at all. One example of the father helping his family is when he builds the fires to keep the household warm:
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. (Hayden 1-6)
The first line explains how on Sundays his father got up early. Sundays were known as a day of rest, but the father still got up and continued to work hard even though he did not have to. Line two simply states how cold it was outside, the word blueblack meaning that it was still dark outside. Lines three through five explain how the father had sore hands from working in the extremely cold weather making the fires and how nobody had ever thanked him for doing this. Another example of the father being helpful is when he polishes his son’s church shoes: “Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well” (Hayden 10-12). This is a characteristic of a kind and caring father and it nice to see that the father finally gets some recognition for his hard work. The son is probably a father himself now, which is what made him grow to respect and appreciate his own father.
Some poets may view their fathers with acceptance. For example, in Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”, the speaker expresses his acceptance with his father when he says:
You beat time on my head /
With a palm caked hard by dirt, /
Then waltzed me off to bed /
Still clinging to your shirt. (Roethke 13-16)
These lines explain how much love and understanding the little boy has for his father. Even though his father was rough with him, the child knew he was playing and that his father loved him dearly, so therefore he accepted him. The reason why the narrator views his father with acceptance is because the father would drink when the narrator was a child:
The whiskey on your breath /
Could make a small boy dizzy; /
But I hung on like death: /
Such waltzing was not...