Robert Hayden: Those Winter Sundays

I really like Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays”. One of the first things that I noticed while reading the poem was the imagery. Everything I read I was able to automatically picture in my head. For instance, “ the blueblack  cold, cracked hands, banked fires, warm rooms, and the author’s polished shoes” are just some of the powerful images that speak for themselves. The focal point of the poem is the love between the father and his son. The kind of love that Hayden describes in the poem reminds me of my own relationship with my father. As a kid, I wasn’t always able to understand some of his behavior. I used to think that he simply didn’t love me much. Not before I grew up did I realize how much love he has always had for me. He was very stern and at times overly rigid which translated as the lack of love in my little head, where in fact it was just his way of parenting. Along the same lines, the author of the poem, when he was a kid, didn’t show enough gratitude and respect for his father and he regretted it later as an adult (possibly when he became a father himself and better understood all the responsibilities and obligations that he as a father had).

Hayden masterly gives the reader the entire family dynamics in only three stanzas. He does it by carefully choosing the words and tones that those words create. What we can understand from the first stanza is that his father is a hard working man, who, unlike majority of people who get to sleep in on Sundays, has to get up early on Sundays “too”! He provides for his family, and chooses to sacrifice some of his own comfort, to make his family members feel more comfortable. Hayden writes,

“I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call…”

He obviously doesn’t want his children to have to experience the harsh winter conditions. His father is an authority figure in the house. The author fears him. It tells the reader that his father is not a touchy-feely person but he expresses his love through his other actions. For example, he polishes his boy’s shoes and indirectly demonstrates how much he cares for his well-being. Of course, at a young age, the boy doesn’t see the things that way. He even says, looking back at a pattern of life that he experienced as a child, ”What did I know, what did I know?” What the author knows now that he didn’t know back then is how much his father truly loved him and how much effort and sacrifice he had to make to raise him.

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One response to “Robert Hayden: Those Winter Sundays

  1. This is yet another beautiful analysis. I relate to what you write about your relationship with your own father. I used to have similar feelings about my mother. I think that this is such a natural part of growing up.

    I love what you write about the narrator reflecting back on his childhood, perhaps after he has had children of his own. I agree that this makes sense due to the clues in the poem.

    I also share your appreciation for the word “too” and other verbal subtleties in this poem. He is a master! Great job!

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