Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” – Essay
“Dawn on the Sabbaths” Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” is a narrative poem that details a father’s tireless efforts at providing for his family with little regard for himself. Hayden is somewhat illusory in his depiction. This leaves one inferring as to what the real denotation of this poem entails. After closer examination, one’s insight of “Those Winter Sundays” comes into focus, though, and the genuine meaning is made mindful. The core of this poem lies in the fact that Hayden comes to realize his father’s love for him in hindsight of his father’s hard work, Hayden’s own personal maturing, and his father’s sacrifices.
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Initially, the poem starts off by epitomizing the father’s tenacity when stating, “Sundays too…” which illustrates that his position as a father is not limited to just Monday through Friday (line 1). Instead, Hayden’s father never seems to stop working. Sundays are archetypically meant to be a day of rest according to many Christian believers. Hayden’s father, however, works hard to make sure his son is ready and looking his finest for church. The father exemplifies this, for example, when he “polishe[s] … [Hayden’s] … good shoes as well” (line 12).
Remarkably, Hayden is completely unaware of his father’s love for him despite all the wonderful gestures that his father does. Hayden’s fear of the noises that the house makes lead one to believe that he is rather young. This is apparent when he talks of “the chronic angers of [the] house” (line9). A teenager would not fear the sounds that a settling house makes first thing in the morning. It is easy to see, with Hayden being just a child, how he misses the mark on the love his father has for him.
Still, this does not diminish the fact that his father does in fact love him given all that which he does for Hayden. Furthermore, Hayden’s father’s love for him is made evident in the events leading up to Hayden’s Sunday mornings. Hayden’s father pushes forward and constructs a fire to heat the house though his hands are not well. The condition of his hands is given when Hayden says, “… with cracked hands that ached,” (line 3). That does not stop Hayden’s father from doing what he feels he must. His father’s persistence and sacrifice is quite evident.
A great example of this is when Hayden’s father“… put his clothes on in the blueblack cold” (line 2). His father could have put his clothes on after he warmed the house. Instead, he decides to dress himself in the dark and frigid morning so that he can start a fire right away and heat the house for his family, which is something any loving father would do. Lastly, his father’s love becomes clear when Hayden recognizes that he did not grasp his father’s love while growing up. This is perceptible when he questions himself “… of love’s [harsh] and [unwanted] [services]? ” (line 12).
This question leads one to consider that Hayden is finally aware of the love his father has for him. In “[s]peaking indifferently to [his father],” Hayden feels guilt for how he speaks to his father (line 10). Though Hayden does not talk ill to his father, he appears to feel that he did not converse respectfully to his father. Upon comprehending his father’s sacrifices and hard work out of love, Hayden finally appreciates his father’s position in his life. Hayden’s new stance confirms that the crux of “Those Winter Sundays” is, in fact, about Hayden’s revelation of his father’s love for him.