Those Winter
Sundays
Robert
Hayden
Robert Hayden (1913-1980)
• Born August 4th, 1913 as Asa Bundy
Sheffey in Detroit, Michigan and was
taken into a foster family
• Was raised in a slum called Paradise Valley
(Detroit’s ghetto)
• Known for his poems that express AfricanAmerican experience
• Attended Detroit City College
• Married Erma Morris in 1940
• In 1976, he was appointed consultant to the
Library of Congress, becoming the first
African American poet to receive this
honor.
• In 1980, Hayden died of heart failure
Those Winter Sundays
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.
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,
Those Winter Sundays
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?
Those Winter
Sundays
Those Winter Sundays, Video Recording
By Kelly Gugan
The Speaker
• The son/daughter of the father
• Probably is his son
– (“and polished my good shoes as well”)
• He is an adult now, looking back onto what
his father had done for him in the past
• He realizes now how he wasted his
childhood not recognizing the little things
that his father did
The Attitude of the Speaker
Toward his Father
A Subtle Love – building fires in the
early morning that “drove out the cold”
Fear– (“fearing the chronic angers of that house”) –
implies that his family fought a lot
* Regret – the boy didn’t understand the
significance his father had until later in
his life
The Poem’s Organization
• 3 stanzas
– 2 stanzas with 5 lines
– 1 quatrain
• Loose blank verse
• Length of the sentences vary
The Poem’s Organization
• The first stanza, Lines 1-5
– Establishes the subject, the speaker’s father
– Focused upon the father’s suffering
– The father sacrifices himself to get up early,
work, and warm the home for his family
– Ends with a very powerful line, “No one ever
thanked him.”
• The speaker never acknowledged his fathers’ actions
The Poem’s Organization
• The second stanza, Lines 6-9
– Once warmth is achieved, the father calls his
son to rise and get dressed
– Mentions “chronic angers” in the household
The Poem’s Organization
• The third stanza, Lines 10-14
– Begins with the image of distance as a
continuation of the last line of the second stanza
(“speaking indifferently to him”)
– But also mentions that he was ungrateful for the
things his father did
– Speaker admits his ignorance over the simple
love for his father (“…what did I know of
love’s austere and lonely offices”)
Imagery
• Cracked hands
– Implies the rough labor that the father went
through
• Sunday
– Typically is a day of rest… Shows that the
father got up early to do things for the family
regardless of the day
• Fire
– Shows a contrast with “blueblack cold”
– Shows a sense of liveliness and anger as well
Diction and Syntax
• Straight-forward language
• Progression between the contrast of dark/cold and
light/warm throughout the poem
1st Stanza (father getting up):
“blueblack cold” in contrast to “banked fires blaze”
2nd Stanza (son waking up):
“cold, splintering, breaking” in contrast to “the rooms
were warm”
- Could symbolize a similar relationship between
the father and son
Diction and Syntax
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.
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,
• The word choice in the
first 2 stanzas emphasizes
the hard “c” sound, which
could symbolize the pain
of the father and of the
household
• Uses alliteration as well to
make the poem “sound”
smooth
Diction and Syntax
3rd Stanza:
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 diction in the last stanza is a lot
more calm and relaxed compared to
the first two stanzas, as conveyed in
the meaning of the final stanza (a
sense of love/remembrance)
Conclusions
• “Those Winter Sundays” is about an adult who is
looking back at his past relationship with his father.
He now recognizes the extremity to which his father
did things for him even within the angry household.
The speaker regrets not recognizing the habitual
actions that his father did for him while he was
young.
• The title is significant in that it describes the typical
winter Sundays that the speaker’s father would do
things for him and how, in his youth, he never
appreciated any of it.
Bibliography
For Background Information:
– "Robert Hayden." Poets.Org. Academy of
American Poets. 16 Apr. 2008
<http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/196>.
– Kennedy, and Gioia. "Robert Hayden."
Pearson Longman. 16 Apr. 2008
<http://wps.ablongman.com/long_kennedy_lfp
d_9/0,9130,1490011-,00.html>.
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Those Winter Sundays