Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” recognizes a father’s love for his family. The speaker of the poem is unnamed, so it may be the poet recalling the memory of his own father. However, there is no hint of sex; therefore, the speaker might be female.
The poem’s form could almost be a sonnet since it has fourteen lines. On the other hand, it does not rhyme and does employ iambic pentameter. Like most sonnets, this is a love poem.
Written as a flashback, the speaker recalls his father during the biting cold in winter time. The father gets up early every day. Even though this is a day of rest, he still gets up to warm up the home for his family.
The father gets up really early on Sunday mornings as he does every morning. He dresses in the terrific cold. The speaker remembers his father’s cracked hands. His hands ache from the backbreaking labor that he does during the work week. The most important point is made in the last line. The speaker realizes that no one stopped to think about what a nice thing that Dad does every day for us…
“No one ever thanked him.”
The good part of this is that now the narrator realizes that the family should have thanked him.
When the speaker awakened, he could hear the rooms warming up from the intense cold. The father would call out to get up. The narrator would get up and slowly dress.
And slowly I would rise and dress,
Fearing the chronic angers of that house,
The boy is afraid of the unhappiness in his home…The anger is chronic which means that it long-lasting. It seems to have left the narrator frightened. Perhaps, his parents argue and struggle in their marriage.
The only thing that is assured is that the home is not happy. This aspect of the home life comes as a surprise when the poem started by lovingly talking about the father. However, the chronic anger may be the reason that the father is never thanked for his extra work.
The narrator speaks without emotion to his father…this is despite him getting up early to make the fires that warmed the house. The father even polished the speaker’s good shoes. The speaker did not know that he should have told his father that he appreciated him and the loving things that he did for him. In today’s world, the speaker might even have hugged his father.
His view of the role of a father becomes problematic. He looks at his father’s role as harsh, stern, and lonely. To the child, the father’s role was a duty.
The chronic angers may come from the father/son relationship. It may be that the father may not have the training himself to be kind and gentle with his children with his words and emotions. The speaker may not have been educated himself in how to receive and give love when was growing up.
The most important part of the poem issues forth from the adult speaker's knowledge that he should have recognized the special things that the father did for him.