Those Winter Sundays

Those Winter Sundays

by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blue black 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, breking.
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?

Summary of Those Winter Sundays

  • Popularity of “Those Winter Sundays”: This poem was written by Robert Hayden, a famous American poet. It is popular because of its thematic strands of love and ingratitude. It was first published in 1962. The poem illustrates the speaker’s love for his late father and also provides the reality of the father-son relationship. However, the popularity of the poem lies that it deals with the sacrifices parents make for their children.
  • “Those Winter Sundays” As a Representative of Love: In this poem, the speaker recollects some praise-worthy memories of his late father. He recalls how his father used to get up early on wintry Sundays to light up the fire with his cracked hands for the comfort of the family. Once the house was warm, he used to wake his son to get dressed. The father often scolded him for his better health. The choice of words suggests that he was an unthankful child who could not acknowledge his father’s struggle. Thus, the speaker regrets at his indifferent behavior with his father. Now, as an adult, he looks back and recollects some precious moments of his father’s life to express his gratitude.
  • Major Themes in “Those Winter Sundays”: Love, regret, and parenthood are the major themes in the poem. The poet provides some glimpses of his father’s struggle. He elaborates how his father used to spend his Sundays dutifully. He takes every pain to bring comfort at home and fulfill his responsibility as a father. However, the poet feels sorry that he could not regard his father’s sacrifices.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Those Winter Sundays”

Literary devices are tools that enable the writers to present their ideas, emotions, and feelings effectively and persuasively. Robert Hayden has also employed some literary devices in this poem to show the love of his father. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “And put his clothes on in the blue black cold”, and the sound of /a/ in “Then with cracked hands that ached.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /wh/ in “What did I know, what did I know”.
  3. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects different in nature. For example, “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breking.” Here, the poet compares cold with a solid object that can splinter and break.
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the reader perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “And put his clothes on in the blue black cold”; “Then with cracked hands that ached” and “and polished my good shoes as well.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break instead continues in the next verse. For example;

“who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.”

  1. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. The poet has posed a rhetorical question in the last stanza to emphasize his point. Such as,

“What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?”

  1. Synesthesia: It refers to a technique adopted by writers to present ideas, characters, or places in a way that they appeal to more than one senses. The poet has used this device in the second line. For example, “And put his clothes on in the blue black cold.” He uses color to describe a feeling.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Those Winter Sundays”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem.
  2. Quatrain: Quatrain is a four-line stanza. Here, the second stanza is quatrain such as,

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breking.
when the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.”

  1. Quintet: Quintet is a five lined stanza in poetry. Here, the first and third stanzas are quintets.
  2. Iambic Pentameter: It is a type of meter having five iambs per line. The poem follows iambic pentameter such as, “and put his clothes on in the blueblack 

Quotes to be Used

 The lines stated below can be used when teaching children about the sacrifices parents make for them. The words like, “cracked hands” and “ached” show that they work hard to provide for their family.

“Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blue black cold,
Then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.”

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