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This excellent poem features an adult speaker lookign back upon his childhood and commenting on his father and their relationship with the benefit of hindsight.
The poem begins with a description of how ever day, even on Sundays, the speaker's father got up early, before the rest of the household, even though it was absolutely freezing, so that he could light a fire and warm up the house before everybody else got up. We are told that "Nobody ever thanked him" for his act of kindness.
The speaker remembers as a boy waking to the sound of the "cold splintering, breaking." Only when the rooms were warmed up would the father call, and then the speaker would rise and get dressed. However, when he got up, he only spoke "indifferently" to his father, even though he had got up in the cold and also polished his shoes. The last two lines of the poem show how much he regrets not understanding these self-sacrificial acts on the part of his father in his childhood:
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
Clearly it is only now in his adulthood that the speaker is fully able to appreciate and understand what his father did for him.
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