What did I know, what did I knowof love’s austere and lonely offices? (10-14)The speaker confesses that as a child he was apathetic and cold toward his father in spite of all the latter’s hard work and devotion. Along with literally warming the house, the father was a servant who performed such mundane tasks as polishing his son’s shoes. This small image underscores the love the father must have had for the child.Hayden repeats the question "What did I know?" in Line 13. In doing so, he allows the reader to acknowledge the terrible sense of sadness and regret the speaker now feels. The poem’s final line completes the question: "what did I know/of love’s austere and lonely offices?" The child was unable to know the difficulty and sacrifice of parental love. The word "offices" denotes a service done for another. It implies that the father’s life revolved around serving his son. It also signifies a religious rite or ceremony ("office"). This ties in with the religious elements of the poem in that the father was participating in the parental ritual of sacrificing one’s own happiness for that of one’s child.
ConclusionFirst published in 1962, Robert Hayden's poem ''Those Winter Sundays'' is a fourteen-line poem written in free verse, meaning that there is no particular rhyme pattern or rhythm.In the poem, the speaker remembers that his father would get up early on Sundays in winter to make fires, not calling him, the speaker as a boy, until the house was warm and his good shoes were polished. The first line is ''Sundays too my father got up early,'' suggesting that his father got up early on all other days to work and Sundays, while the rest of his family slept later, were no exception.The speaker as an adult seems to be realizing that people show love in different ways and he may be feeling guilty that he did not recognize his father's wintry Sunday morning habits as an act of love until now. He says that he responded to his father's calls ''indifferently'' and at the end he asks himself, ''What did I know, what did I know/ Of love's austere and lonely offices?'' He now understands that some of the purest and sincere acts of love are thankless tasks that people do alone for the good of other people and has a new understanding of his father.