Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden: Poem Analysis

In the first draft the poet has narrated the efforts made by his father in his brought up. In his narrative yet poetic style, the poet acknowledges the efforts of his father which he did not appreciate as a child. The title of the poem those winter Sundays further sheds light on the subject.
In the first stanza, the poet has used descriptive words to narrate to its reader the scene in which his father would wake up. Using terms like the blue-black cold to describe the before dawn cold in which his father used to wake up. Even after working the whole week in harsh weather situation, he would still get out of the bed early, to burn the coals and warm the house. Here it should be kept in mind that during those times, the houses were made warm by heating coals, whose heat would burn away at night. In the morning the house would be stone cold, and one had to heat the coals again.

In the second stanza the term splintering” gives a strong image of the climatic situation. In the ruthless cold, the poet’s father would wake them up after the coals were replaced, so his family would get dressed up in the heat. The “chronic anger” bespeak the unhappiness expression of the domestic situation in which he was brought up.
The last stanza is filled with emotions of the love for his father, and regret that he could not recognize his efforts before. His father used to polish his shoes, which the poet would wear and go to church. As a child, he could not interpret the situations in which his father would go through. He never realized the hard work and struggle his father did to support his family, nor could he understand the love behind his father’s strictness and sternness.

This poem is about the poet’s recollection of memories about his childhood and his father. In the first stanza, the poet narrates the situation in which his father used to wake up. On Sunday, which is supposed to be a holiday, his father would wake up early and get dressed. Even working throughout the week in sturdy conditions which caused cracking and aching in his hands, he would wake up early and make the coal hot for the fire. The stanza is ended on a very powerful line that no one recognized his efforts and thus never appreciated or thanked him (Kennedy& Gioia, 2008).
Further, in the second stanza, he illustrates the severity of coldness in the house. Just as the ice splinters and breaks, the cold inside the house would also break after his father had warmed the coals. The poet would wake up to the pleasant warmness in the house. His father would then call them to dress up, as it was Sunday and they had to go to church. However, the poet would get out of bed with a heavy heart, fearing any domestic issues caused in the house.

In the last stanza, the poet adopts a very passionate yet regretful tone that he could not see the kindness and the sacrifices his father made for his family and had always been reserved with him. He would talk very little to his father may be out of fear as he was very strict. Yet even with no gratitude given to him, his father would still go out in the cold and work, polish the poet’s shoes. The poet ends on a note that since he was a child he could not decipher his father’s feeling of loneliness, as no one ever noticed his hard work, nor he could understand the love behind his graveness.
Comparing the two drafts, one finds out that the underlying meaning of the poem is the same i.e. A child (now a grown-up) realizing the sacrifices his father made for him. The first draft, however, had the use of descriptive words, such as blue-black cold and splintering, breaking.  The stanzas are more simple, précised yet powerful. The reader gets a clear image of the poet’s situation and can feel regret in the last stanza. In the second draft the diction is a bit complicated, e.g. “Dreading my father’s kindness most of all, and had monosyllables for him”.

 

REFERENCES
1. Kennedy, and Gioia. “Robert Hayden.” Pearson Longman. 16 Apr. 2008.

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