I'm always reminded of this wonderful poem by Robert Hayden as Father's Day approaches each year. While my relationship with my own father was somewhat less austere and lonely than that of the speaker's, I often spoke and acted indifferently towards him. Fortunately, I came to my senses a short time before he passed away at a young 56 years of age 32 years ago, and was able to thank him to some degree for symbolically keeping those "banked fires ablaze" on so many freezing Sunday mornings.
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.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
Joseph, I loved the tribute, thanks for sharing it with us. Here's one from the archives:
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock's so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing's to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I'll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.
Father and Son - by F.R. Higgins
Only last week, walking the hushed fields
Of our most lovely Meath, now thinned by November,
I came to where the road from Laracor leads
To the Boyne river--that seems more lake than river,
Stretched in uneasy light and stript of reeds.
And walking longside an old weir
Of my people's, where nothing stirs--only the shadowed
Leaden flight of a heron up the lean air--
I went unmanly with grief, knowing how my father,
Happy though captive in years, walked last with me there.
Yes, happy in Meath with me for a day
He walked, taking stock of herds hid in their own breathing;
And naming colts, gusty as wind, once steered by his hand,
Lightnings winked in the eyes that were half shy in greeting
Old friends--the wild blades, when he gallivanted the land.
For that proud, wayward man now my heart breaks--
Breaks for that man whose mind was a secret eyrie,
Whose kind hand was sole signet of his race,
Who curbed me, scorned my green ways, yet increasingly loved me
Till Death drew its grey blind down his face.
And yet I am pleased that even my reckless ways
Are living shades of his rich calms and passions--
Witnesses for him and for those faint namesakes
With whom now he is one, under yew branches,
Yes, one in a graven silence no bird breaks.
What a marvellous poem, Joseph. Packing so much meaning and feeling into so few words - 'the blueblack cold' ... 'the chronic angers of that house' ... 'love's austere and lonely offices'. I hadn't seen it before, though a search on the Internet shows that it's very well known, and Robert Hayden likewise.
Many thanks for the posting.
this is one of my favorite poems
it is so moving ...
Les and Stephen:
Thank you for posting two more moving tributes.
IanB and ilza:
Glad you enjoyed.