By Robert Hayden (1913-1980)
A Study Guide
Study Guide Prepared by Michael J. Cummings...© 2011
......."Those Winter Sundays" is a fourteen-line lyric poem in free verse. It was first published in 1962.
.......In "Those Winter Sundays," an adult speaker presents memories of how his father expressed love for him through his actions. In particular, the speaker remembers that his father rose very early on Sunday mornings to stoke the furnace fire. Only when the house was warm did he awaken his son to
.......Robert Hayden enables the reader to picture the cold in the home of the poem's speaker. It is "blueblack," like a frozen cadaver. Ascribing color to a feeling (coldness) is a figure of speech called synesthesia.
labor in the weekday weather (line 4)
banked fires blaze (line 5)
When the rooms were warm (line 7)
the chronic angers of that house (line 9)
who had driven out the cold (line 11)
loves austere and lonely offices (line 14)Themes
.......When the father stokes the furnace fire, he is also stoking the fire of love for his son and any other family members in the house. The warmth of the coal fire becomes the warmth of the love that radiates throughout the house.
.......In line 5, the speaker says no one ever thanked his father for the sacrifices he made. Then, in the final stanza, the speaker expresses regret for "speaking indifferently" to his father and says that as he was growing up he was ignorant of "love's austere and lonely offices."
.......Although the poem contains no end rhyme, it does contain internal rhyme, as in the following lines.and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold(line 2)
from labor in the weekday weather made (line 4)
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. (line 5)
Id wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. (line 6)
and slowly I would rise and dress (line 8)
Speaking indifferently to him (line 10)
.......Click here to see a reproduction of the copyrighted poem, printed with permission by the Poetry Foundation.
Figures of Speech
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. For definitions of figures of speech, see Literary Terms.
AlliterationSee Language.AnaphoraWhat did I know, what did I know (line 13)Assonancefrom labor in the weekday weather made (line 4)MetaphorId wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
Comparison of the cold to a solid object that can splinter and breakSynesthesiaand put his clothes on in the blueblack cold (line 2)
Use of color (blueblack) to describe a feeling (coldness)
Study Questions and Writing Topics
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