Duty is a word defined in several ways by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It is used to denote “a moral or legal obligation; the service required under specified conditions; and obligatory tasks, service, or functions that arise from one’s position”. It is a word used to speak of the performance of obligations to others in some fashion. In the poems, “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden; “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen; and “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, duty to family, to a nation, and to ancestors will be discussed and its effects on the characters in the poems.
In the poem “Those Winter Sundays”, Robert Hayden begins his remembrance of his father on a winter Sunday, a day of rest for most working class peoples in the era this poem was written. In the first stanza, he shows his father, even on his day of rest getting up out of a warm bed, to put his clothes on “in the blueblack cold”. The man is getting up early so he can get the house warm for his family before they start to stir for the day. Mr. Hayden helps the reader to see his father: a man who labors with his hands out in the cold through the week, “cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather” to provide for his family. The man can be seen quietly moving about the house, banking the fire as he prepares for the day with nary a grumble.
As a parent, duty calls at all hours of the day and night. Tasks are completed “behind the scenes” such as making a warm fire or going off to a day of hard work where hands are “cracked” and “ache with labor in the weekday weather”. Bringing home a paycheck and providing food and shelter are all duties parents complete each day, yet are not particularly noticed by their children until there is a problem. Men in particular are often silent in their everyday life, and their children know little of what has transpired through their day. Any troubles, heartaches or worries are kept hidden so the father does not appear weak in front of his children. Worry and stress may occasionally rear their heads in ways such as “the chronic angers of the house”. This lack of sharing is often seen as unloving yet this is where actions speak louder than words. Mr. Hayden’s father shows he did all he could for his family by providing shelter and comfort.
Also, the father polishes his son’s shoes, probably sitting before the fire, in the quiet of the house, while everyone else slept. Polishing shoes is a slow, tedious task requiring attention and time. It is a task of a “servant” yet the father polished the shoes of his son out of love. This picture of love showed the father attending to his child and family’s needs, completing his duties as the head of the household, with no thanks given him for his hard work and love.
Mr. Hayden, through his words, shows the reader a “picture” of his hard working, silent father. His poem is an insight into the silent dad types of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Those men worked behind the scenes and were so...