“Those Winter Sundays” is a story of a father’s unending love for his son and the son’s regret of not being able to understand and appreciate that love before time had run up for this. Here, Robert Hayden uses the coldness of the winter mornings to put further emphasis on the warmth of the father’s love.
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Those Winter Sundays
BY ROBERT HAYDEN
Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
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,
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?
Analysis of Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”
The poem follows no particular pattern or rhyme; the speaker is lost in his thoughts as he goes back in time to the Sundays of his childhood when his father would wake him up only after the fire has been lit and his shoes have been polished, the little things that the son never cared at that time to appreciate. He now realizes that these were, in fact, little acts of love, which had gone unnoticed on his part.
The speaker now regrets on not reciprocating those unseen love with words or a perhaps a little bit of gratitude of his own. What did I know, what did I know. It is as if that the speaker is split into two in front of his readers; one part is the unappreciative child, unaware of his father’s love for him and the other is the remorseful adult who wished he could go back in time to fix his relation with his father.
The poem is straightforward enough and is only fourteen lines in length. It is often considered to be a sonnet due to its number of lines and the in-depth description of the love Robert Hayden describes between a father and his son.
Since the poem is divided between the past and the present we are able to see the presence of two types of affection: the one of the father and the other of his son. The son had not loved him back when he could have and it is heavily implied that the father may be deceased now and therefore cannot love the son anymore.
In a way, “Those Winter Sundays” is a reflection of how we always appreciate the important things in life only after they have left us or when they no longer exist.