Those Winter Sundays Essay, Research Paper
Analysis of “Those Winter Sundays”
The poem ” Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden is my favorite poem.
It is full of deep affections not only in its words but also in the visual structure of the stanzas. In this particular poem, Hayden recounts that in winter Sunday mornings, his father always gets up in the cold and builds a fire for him, the child, so that he could get out of bed into a warm house. However, he failed to appreciate his father’s love. This brief and lovely poem captures the sense of poignancy inherent love in the father-son relationship.
The poet is the obvious speaker who is a man recalled getting alone with his father when he was a child. Hayden wrote this poem in 1962 when he was
middle age. To understand Hayden why he wants to write this poem, we must
look back the childhood of Hayden. Hayden was born in a destitute area of
Detroit in 1913. He had an emotionally tumultuous childhood. Because his
parents separated before he was born, he was raised by neighbors. As he grew
up in a foster family, he and his foster father have a generation gap. He does
not realize how much his father loved him until he is an adult.
In the first stanza, Hayden uses vivid language to show that his father woke up before everyone else to light the fire.
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.
Sunday is not a workday, and his father could have slept late. However, he
did not do like that. The plural noun ” Sundays” is associated with the word “too” to emphasize that his father always got up early. Hayden makes the reader feel and suffer the bitter cold, by appealing to our senses of touch and sight. It is easy to see the “blueblack cold,” and feel the roughness of the “cracked hands that ached”. At the same time, “cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather” connotes that the father was a hard working labor , who was
desperately trying to provide for his family. His father made “banked fires blaze” by “cracked hands”. However, “No one ever thanked him”, it states that his father was always doing daily routine for the son, but the son did not appreciate his father at all. The relation between father and son is a little bit negative.
The second stanza depicts that his father made the rooms warmly and called
the son to get up.
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,
When the fires drive away the cold, we experience a sense of relief. In here, the poet uses images again. We can hear the sounds of the wood in the
heat as “splintering, breaking “, and we can also see the light and feel the
warmth. This reminds us of the times of before electricity and heat had been
introduced to the household. “When the rooms were warm, he’d call”, this
sentence reveals his father’s love. In his mind, he did not want the child to get up in the cold room. On the other hand, the son slowly risen and dressed. The poet uses” slowly” to show the child’s mood at that time when he was not willing to get up from the warm bed. However, the son fears “chronic angers of that house.” We can see that the chronic angers are the stern ways of the father, who has difficulty in showing his emotion toward his child, so that the child fears endless angers of his father. Thus, though the father expresses his love by sacrificing his own comfort for the sake of his child, the child still does not understand the simple and stern love that the father showed.
The last stanza is the essence of the poem. The poet shows us that the father took care of the cold and polished the child’s shoes, yet the child feels a sense of indifference to the father. From last stanza the poet show us how lonely his father’s love was on cold winter Sundays, and how thankless his father found his tasks.
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?
The word “indifferently” indicates very well the attitude of the son toward his father, yet his father “polished my good shoes” in the cold weather. Although all the acts done by his father seems very simple and small thing, they are showing how much his father loved the child. At the end of the stanza, ” What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” these two lines are notable for the abrupt change of tone from the hard-edged first twelve lines to a sudden burst of lyricism. In the first twelve lines, the poet maintains a tone that might be described as distanced. His intention seems to be a description that defies sentiment. But in the last two lines, the poem suddenly becomes lyric tone.
Hayden uses repetition, ” What did I know, what did I know”, in order to let us know how remorseful he is. At that time, he was so ignorant that he could not feel about the love and care from his father although the love was so invisible. The connotations of the words “austere” and ” lonely offices” indicate that how hard and lonely it is for a father to carry the burden of a family. When the speaker grew up as an adult, and probably become a parent, he comes to realize how much pressure and many duties should shoulder with as a father.
Hayden made the poem effective. The tone of the poem is a little sad,
regretful and wistful. We can read the rhyme and notice how the sounds of
those words tie the poem together. For example, ” clothes” and “cold” are in the second line; ” cracked” and ” ache” are in the third line; ” Love” and ” lonely” are at the last line. Therefore, all the language in this poem are not only precise but also musical.
From this poem, I think that to us, to love another person or to do
anything that we care about deeply is in a profound sense composed of the
pedestrian and undertaken without full appreciation. To our parents, although
the acts done by the parents were considered to be very small for us, we should
always appreciate them.