Those Winter Sundays
Childhood Memories Of Robert Hayden In His Poem “Those Winter Sundays”
American poet, Robert Hayden wrote, “Those Winter Sundays” as a memory from his childhood. Reflecting on his past from the voice of a child who fears his father. As an adult, he now has a clearer picture of what his father endured, and the sacrifices he made. A father who loves his family unconditionally and performs selfless acts for them. Robert Hayden in “Those Winter Sundays” explains through tone, imagery, and symbolism of a father’s love that will sacrifice for his family and does not demand reciprocity. The tone is sadness and regret, as Hayden remembers back to when he was growing up. He feels regret for not appreciating his father enough and all that he has done for the family. In the tone, the boy speaks of his father, “Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold/ and polished my good shoes as well”.
The speaker has remorse in the manner he spoke to the one who sacrificed his mornings to keep the home warm. He can polish his shoes, but his father does it because he cherishes his son. The boy remembers that no one gave appreciation to the man of the house. The thought occurs to him, “No one ever thanked him”. There is sadness in the tone, as Hayden understands that neither he nor another household member expressed their gratitude. The father would wake up before the sun rose to tend to the need of the family. Sacrificing his mornings, the father prepares the day for his loved ones even though they did not thank him. Newell 2Robert Hayden’s usages of imagery help to visualize that the father’s first priority is his family. Foremost, the speaker says, “put his clothes on in the blueblack cold”.
Hayden paints an image that the day has yet to begin. The father gets up before the sun in the winter mornings to warm the house for his family, that they will not have to live in a cold house. He does not want his household to have to wake up in the same freezing temperatures he endured. Before the boy’s day starts, “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking”. As the speaker stays in his home, he can hear his father chopping wood. A visual image creates an arduous, frigid setting that shows hardships the father endured. The father demonstrates his love as he rises early to push out the cold. Additionally, symbolism represents the meaning behind what Hayden is saying.
There is hidden love within the father’s actions. He would chop wood for the fire, “with cracked hands that ached/ from labor in the weekday weather made/ banked fires blaze”. The father wakes up early even on a Sunday, a day of rest, to bring warmth to his family. Although no one thanked him, he continued to provide for them. The temperature of the rooms and weather is symbolic with his father, cold and reserved. The poem’s title indicates the time of year signifying the cold. It is the indifference and standoffish emotions between the father and child.
The speaker reflects on his adolescent ignorance, “what did I know/ of love austere …”. His father performs acts of love like bringing warmth from the fire to the household. His father does not verbalize his love, but by demonstrating it. The speaker recounts ignorance of youth that his father perseveres despite an absence of recognition of his family. Robert Hayden reflects on his past thinking about what his father had done for his family. As an adult, the speaker appreciates more of the sacrifices made and came to understand the form of love by his father. When the speaker was a child, there was a lack of wisdom. With age Newell 3comes maturity, experience and understanding the selflessness that comes from parental love which does not require an expectation of mutuality.
In “Those Winter Days” Robert Hayden recollects when his father would take care of his family that establishes the theme of familial love and sacrifice that a parent makes for their child that shows through tone, imagery, and symbolism.
A Literary Review of Those Winter Sundays, a Poem by Robert Hayden
Those Winter Sundays is a poem written by Robert Hayden. The poem involves a speaker who can be deduced to be regretting of not being grateful to a figure he refers as ‘father’ (Poetryfoundation.org). This ‘father’ forms the basis of the poem such that all the themes presented in the poem revolve around him. The speaker is clearly describing how his childhood view of his father has changed with his growing up. The current paper will analyze three major points that the poem ‘Those Winter Sundays’ explicitly communicates to its audience. Contextual evidence from the poem will be relied upon in order to ascertain the presence of the mentioned points in the poem.
The first point is a hardworking father full of fatherly love. All through the poem, the speaker paints his father as a loving family man who worked hard for his entire family. In the first line of the first stanza, the speaker states that, “Sundays too my father woke up early”, and in the fourth line still of the first stanza the speaker states that, “From the labour in the weekday whether made,” This indicates that, even when on Sundays hi father was not expected to wake up early, he could just wake up and perform some chores that he could otherwise avoid had he not been hard working. To demonstrate how loving he was as a father, the speaker argues that his father could “Polish my good shoes as well” in the third line of the third stanza.
The second point regards to family violence. There is a notion of family violence throughout the poem. The speaker in the second line of the first stanza talks about ‘blueblack cold’ a phrase that directly links to a violent setting and environment most probably of the family. The speaker states that “Fearing the chronic angers of that house” in the fourth line of the second stanza, which directly refers to how violent the home of the speaker was. It can be argued that it is this ‘father’ who propagates the violence that is experienced in the homestead of the speaker. The first line of the third stanza makes this argument evident as the speaker narrates that “Speaking indifferently to him” meaning that the speaker fears his father most likely because of his violent nature.
The third point as regards to the poem pertains to the realization that the speaker’s father deserved better treatment from all the members of his family. The second line of the third stanza, “Who had driven out the cold” indicates the speaker’s realization of the role his father played in the family. The context of the term cold in this line cannot be used in reference to the family’s internal violence but rather the external challenges which his father worked hard to eliminate and which he deserved credit for. To further prove that the speaker indeed has realized that his father required more gratitude, in the fourth line of the third stanza, the speaker states that, “What did I know, what did I know” a statement which clearly explains that the speaker has finally realized what his father deserved.
Those Winter Sundays is clearly a poem that employs all the tools and elements of poetry to stress on some family themes that existed during the years of its author. Every word, line and stanza works to effectively bring out the meaning of family life in the years of the author who is considered to be one of the pioneer poets of African-American descent. As such, in the reading and explanation of the poem, it is important each word and line in the poem is extensively analyzed.
An Old Regret: Analyzing “Those Winter Sundays
Robert Hayden described the relationship between his father and younger self in his poem “Those Winter Sundays.” Robert Hayden grew up in a poor neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. Since his parents left him with family friends, he grew up with that family and didn’t know his real name until he was forty years old. Hayden also taught at a couple universities and published several of his collections of poetry throughout his lifetime; written retrospectively, this particular poem is about his “adopted father” and the relationship between the two of them. Hayden, the speaker of the poem, regrets how he treated his father as he grew up. Despite the father’s hard work and efforts to show his love, Hayden failed to appreciate and recognize this man’s gestures.
Hayden’s father endeavored to be the diligent caretaker that every family desires. In the poem, the speaker explains that “Sundays too my father got up early” (1). This has implied that the father woke up early for work or to take care of business every day. Even on a worldly known day of rest, he awoke at dawn to be sure everything is completed that is required for that day. His father also worked often, and it is safe to assume that he gets up quite early for that as well. Hayden explains that he gets up before the house is warmed and “then with cracked hands that ached / from labor in the weekday weather made / banked fires blaze…”(3-5). Even after having several days of drudgery and pain in his hands, the father awoke to make the fire, allowing the house to be warm before his family leaves their slumber. It is evident, in these stark terms, that Hayden’s father cherished his family and showed them that love through providing.
The household as a whole often failed to thank the father for his efforts and care. In the poem, the speaker points out how much the father does for them in the first stanza. He ended that stanza with “No one ever thanked him” (5). This shows in literal terms that no one cared to thank him. The father worked hard to provide and loved them but was never recognized for what he did. Hayden also described his situation on Sunday mornings with “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. / When the rooms were warm, he’d call, / and slowly I would rise and dress” (6-8). He knew that his father got up early to warm the house for the family, but he did not appreciate what was done. It was written that he continually was “speaking indifferently to him,” despite the father treating Hayden special (10). The father made the house warm and polished his shoes and worked hard all week but it was never recognized from Hayden or the rest of the family.
When looking back to the past, Hayden regrets the way he treated his father. He wrote this poem to acknowledge that and wishes he had recognized the love his father provided. In the poem he writes that he always treated him poorly and it is implied that he was not appreciative of his motives. In the poem, regret emerges in Hayden’s final words: “What did I know, What did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices” (13-14). He chose those words to show that he wishes he could change his ignorance from the past. The word austere shows the dark somber that his father may have felt from never being thanked. If Hayden could go back to his younger self, he would have treated his father as special and been grateful for what he had done for him and the rest of the family.
Unfortunately, Hayden can not reverse the distant relationship he caused with his father, but he instead tells readers this story. He wants to prevent others from having the same issues with their own parents. It is vital to recognize when people put forth effort, express gratitude toward them, and accept others’ way of showing love. There are people few and far between who strive to provide for their family and friends. It is apparent that Hayden wants us to learn from his mistakes and listen to the advice he gives through the subtleties of “Those Winter Sundays.”
Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays.” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readersand Writers. Sixth Edition. edited by John Schilb and John Clifford. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. p. 263.
Parenting and Poetic Technique in “My Father’s Song” by Simon J. Ortiz and “Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
The poem “My Father’s Song” is based on the wisdom and values, as well as traditions passed from old generation to new one. The speaker uses his life experience between him and his father to depict the variation of values and traditions between the old and new generation. In emphasizing his theme, the writer has used repetition of specific phrases, as well as using simple wording to make it livelier. On the other hand, the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Hayden explores the relationship between a parent and his child. He goes on to present the experiences of this relationship including love, misunderstanding, hate, and admiration. The poems “Those Winter Sundays” and “My Father’s Song” are focused on expressing the relationship between father and son, and on developing differing levels of closeness between these figures through deviations in the poetic techniques employed.
Parenting styles and their effects on the child are themes explored by both of these poems. In essence, parenting is a critical aspect which plays a huge role in influencing the role which the child will play in the society upon growing up. Consequently, the bonds which children establish their relationships determine their social interaction with the society. The poems, “Winter Sundays” and “My Father’s song” are about the authors remembering their father and how they related with them. They then go on to showcase the consequences of this relationship in their attitudes and general life. Accordingly, the authors of these poems reflect back on the lives of their fathers and remembering past events while relating them to their lives. In “Those Winter Sundays” the narrator reflects on the sacrifices made by his father for him and the entire family, but of which were not appreciated. The narrator in the poem does not have a special or intimate relationship with his father. As a young boy, he used to fear his father to the extent that he could not relate to him freely. Subsequently, this kind of relationship affected the narrator’s social aspects as he could not form a strong social bond with him. In other words, he did not welcome his presence.
The kind of boy child- relationship exhibited in “My Father’s Song” is quite different from that of “Those Winter Sundays”. In particular, the narrator in the former poem is closer to his father and is free to communicate with him in matters concerning the family as depicted in the context “my father was speaking things to me”. This is an indication that the father was giving advice to his child and interacting with him on important issues affecting him and the society. The father was informing his child on the things he needed to know when he grows. The narrator further explained the oral traditions of his culture to his son as he considered this part of his obligations. However, the voice of the father is not directly relayed; but instead, it’s ingrained in the song, experience, and actions.
In these poems, both of the authors have employed literary devices to express the theme. However, despite both poems expressing the relationship between son and father, the authors have employed different figurative language, tone, and imagery. In “Those Winter Sundays” the tone used is a bit harsh while in “My Father’s Song” the reflective and humble tone is depicted in the word choices which the author uses. For instance, in the first stanza, the speaker vividly remembers the voice of his father. His description of the experience is as follows: “I am deeply missing my father today, His voice is the best ever, I am longing for his thin chest, I am overwhelmed by emotions, When he is speaking to me as his son” (Ortiz 2-7) On the contrary, “Those Winter Sundays” as a completely different tone as depicted in the following lines drawn from stanza two: “I could wake up only to hear the breaking, and cold splintering, He would call when the rooms were warm, I would slowly rise to dress, With fear of that house’s unceasing anger” (Hayden 22’ 1-4) What this means is that the narrator was not at all comfortable at the house and that he feared the voice of his father. This is why when he called; he could do the necessary, which is dressing because he feared his father.
Both “My Father’s Song” and “Winter Sundays” express a reflection of the relationship between father and son and the outcome of these relationships on their personality and attitude. However, the experiences narrated in these poems are quite different. In “My Father’s song” there is a communication, and love between the child and his father. The father loves not only his son, but also his family unconditionally. This is a different case with the relationship on the “Those Winter Sundays” whereby: the father is unable to neither express his love nor communicate with his son and family. This is an important lesson to today’s parents on the implications of their parenting styles on the perception and future of their children. Therefore, the two poems can be used to complement one another in themes regarding the effective parenting styles.
Ortiz, Simon. “My Father’s Song”, 1976. Available from https://mgdenikegannon.weebly.com/uploads/6/0/3/1/60313901/my_fathers_song_simon_ortiz.pdf Hayden, Robert. Those Winter Sundays, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1985. Available from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46461/those-winter-sundays
A Comparison of Advice to My Son by Peter Meinke and Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Peter Meinke and Robert Hayden
Peter Meinke’s poem “Advice to My Son” and Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” should be compared because they are two beautifully written poems that are about relationships between a parent and their child, but they also have their differences. Peter Meinke’s “Advice to My Son” concludes with a statement that is a little more difficult to comprehend, because it is riddled with figurative language and symbols. Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” uses language that is in a fairly straightforward and expresses one of the main themes in the last few lines. This difference in linguistic style will readily appear if you compare the concluding lines of each poem. Though these two heartfelt poems are different in many ways, in the end they are both essentially about a loving family and the relationship that a father and son share.
Peter Meinke’s poem “Advice to My Son” is about a father trying to give his son his own age-old advice on how to spend his time and how to live his life to the fullest from the perspective of one who is older and more experienced. Meinke conveys a powerful sense of a series of the opposing aspects of life: the physical and the spiritual, the sensual and the intellectual, the religious and the secular, etc. The tone of this poem is full of love and hope for the future. An example could be expressed in the lines “And always serve bread with your wine. / But son, / always serve wine.” My interpretation of these final few lines are that the speaker is trying to advise the son to take a middle course, not to veer to any extreme or the other, but to also indulge in the pleasures of life. This poem is a fantastic example of how all a parent really wants for their child is for them to be happy and successful.
Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays,” conveys the speaker as an adult man who presents the reader with memories from his childhood of how his father expressed love for him through his actions – even though no one ever really took the time to thank him – and the regret the son feels for not appreciating him. This poem has a tone that is darker and filled with sorrow and guilt. One may interpret the lines “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices?” as the speaker of the poem implying a few things: That the father does everything he does for his family out of love, not expectations of being thanked for it, and that the father feels lonely and neglected because his actions are not fully appreciated.
Other than the tones, the differences of these two poems have include the situation. “Those Winter Sundays” seems more serious as the speaker reflects on how his father woke him up on cold Sunday mornings and how the boy seemingly failed to appreciate his father. On the other hand, “Advice to My Son” seems to be more of a bonding experience between two family members. Though the poems share a common theme of love, Meinke’s poem also has an underlying theme of the potential one has for success in life, while Hayden’s poem also has the lurking theme of ingratitude.
There are a few similarities that these two poems share. Other than the father-son relationships that are the poem’s subjects, the styles that the two poets demonstrate are also similar. Both the poems “Advice to My Son” and “Those Winter Sundays” were written in free verse without any obvious rhyme scheme or any clear rhythm. The lines of both poems are longer, reflecting the ideas of the poet. Both of these well-known poems also share the prevailing idea to not taking life for granted. Another similarity they share is the mood of love the reader experiences, specifically the love a parent shows for their children.