Poetry November 6, 2012
“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden
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,
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?
First 5 lines:
Title –winter connotes coldness, death; Sundays are a Holy day. (day of rest)
Speaker –a son father relationship; memory sequence
“The blueblack cold” –early early morning; blueblack sounds like bruising
Working man, hands ache from labour
No one ever thanked him –taken for granted
Imagery goes from (blueblack) cold to (banked) fires blaze
Use of consonance –instead of soft c sound, hard k sound sense of things being hard
Next Four Lines:
Warmth is occurring, but there is a kind of violence seen in the “splintering, breaking” diction
Slowly I would rise –fear right away
The house is personified as consistently angry –house not a home
o House has taken on the anger of the families
o Splintering and breaking of the family dynamic
Last Five Lines:
Speaking indifferently –knows he can expect things regardless of how he treats him
Driven out the cold –like a hero, drove out evil
And polished my good shoes –for church? Great man, and also a humble servant
Father is: Grandiose and great but also a mere servant to the child
Ends with the “child” saying love is uncompromised and simple
o He didn’t know the love his dad had for him as a child. Was unable to recognize these
things as a child
Child’s memory of growing up in an unhappy home, but still a great amount of love, pride and
respect for his father
No mention of mother Length of a sonnet (not a sonnet!) –love poem to his father
Harder on himself than he is on his father
My Papa’s Waltz –Theodore Roethke
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
Rhyme is ABAB –sense of doubleness like in a waltz
Father was a drunk.
Slanted rhyme is off perfection (dizzy and easy) to show the sloppiness and slanted aspects of the
Iambic rhyme scheme (unstressed, stressed) 3 feet per line.
o IAMBIC TRIMETER (3 like the 3 beats in a waltz)
Spondee at the end of the last line. (y—little unstressed syllable )
Trochaic foot –captures the chaos of the pans falling from the shelf
A kind of division of us and her
o Father + son vs. mother
His father is reduced to just a hand
o A battered knuckle –could be from labour, a fight, violence, etc. Scraped by buckle –kid is just waist heigh