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The poems “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke and “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden are similar poems that majorly talk about father and son relationship. They are poems of grown up men who are talking about the relationship they had with their fathers. In Roethke’s poem, the father is not just a dad by name, but he often comes home drunk and smelling of alcohol but still has time to take his son up to dance with him. The poem picks an episode in the young man’s life but we are able to see that it is a recurrent act. On the other hand, in Hayden’s poem, we are able to pick out issues between father and son. We are able to realize that there exist no communication between the two and as such there is a great distance between them. Despite this, we are able to see some love between the two.
The two poems are similar in the way they both take a look at the past and show how sons talk about their fathers with respect. They both inform us that the fathers were careful men. In the poem “My Papa’s Waltz,” the dad was trying to show his son that despite spending time with friends while taking alcohol, he still cared about him and would often come back home before he goes to sleep. They would dance until ‘pans slid from the kitchen shelf.’ At this point, the mother would be so upset and thus the poet writes ‘My mother's countenance/Could not unfrown itself’ (Edgar, 628). He would then take his son and ‘waltz’ him on the bed to sleep.
Hayden’s father also expressed love but in a different way. On Sunday mornings like any other morning, the father would wake up early when it was still cold and dark. He would then split firewood and use it to start fire in the house. After the house has grown worm due to the fire, he would call the rest of the family to wake up. Despite not being appreciated for doing this, he did not seem to mind. Just like any other man, fathers sacrifice themselves for their loved ones. This is often done to show the kind of love they have for their family. Most families do not realize this kind of love until they become older like Hayden and Roethke. While sacrificing, they gain a lot of love, admiration and respect. The two poems have therefore taken an admiring look back at the responsibilities of the fathers despite pointing out their parent’s imperfectness.
As the poets look back into their childhood to thank their fathers for their shown love, “My Papa Waltz” expresses this through the use of the word ‘papa’. In normal circumstances, children tend to use the word ‘papa’ when they have a very close relationship with their father. In case the dad was abusing and hurting this young man then, he would not have used the name ‘papa.’ Roethke remembers the feeling when he held papa’s hand. He says that ‘With a palm caked hard by dirt’ (Edgar, 628). He was hurting at some point from the strong grasp and the romping which they did in the kitchen, but he still held his father tightly. The son understood all this and that is why he is now grateful that his father spent time with him.
On the contrary despite having no communication between father and son in the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Hayden, the father would still drive the cold by splitting firewood and lighting the fire in the morning. Father would also polish the young man’s shoes as well. We are able to see the entire picture of the strained relationship between father and son. They are both too tough to show their love for each other openly. Hayden succeeded by informing the reader that love can be shown in very different ways and that is why he ended the poem by saying ‘What did I know, what did I know/of love’s austere and lonely offices?’ (Edgar, 815)