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Robert Hayden's Those Winter Sundays: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson provides a summary and analysis of Robert Hayden's 1962 poem ~'Those Winter Sundays,~' a simple reflection on his relationship with his father.

Poem Summary

First published in 1962, Robert Hayden's poem ''Those Winter Sundays'' is a fourteen-line poem written in free verse, meaning that there is no particular rhyme pattern or rhythm.

In the poem, the speaker remembers that his father would get up early on Sundays in winter to make fires, not calling him, the speaker as a boy, until the house was warm and his good shoes were polished. The first line is ''Sundays too my father got up early,'' suggesting that his father got up early on all other days to work and Sundays, while the rest of his family slept later, were no exception.

The speaker as an adult seems to be realizing that people show love in different ways and he may be feeling guilty that he did not recognize his father's wintry Sunday morning habits as an act of love until now. He says that he responded to his father's calls ''indifferently'' and at the end he asks himself, ''What did I know, what did I know/ Of love's austere and lonely offices?'' He now understands that some of the purest and sincere acts of love are thankless tasks that people do alone for the good of other people and has a new understanding of his father.

Analysis

This poem does not contain a lot of figurative languages; Hayden's style is simple and straightforward in a way that matches the cold, silent wintry morning that he is describing. Though there is no pattern in the rhyme or rhythm of the poem, it is fourteen lines, which is one of the formal requirements of a sonnet. Sonnets are poems about love and the passage of time; we could read this poem as a sonnet about the love between Hayden and his father.

In the poem, the speaker recalls his father building fires during winter to warm their house early on Sunday mornings
Old house on a wintry day

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