Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Analysis: Sound Check
Even though “Those Winter Sundays” doesn’t rhyme or have a regular meter, it is still a really sound-y poem. (That's really just our way of saying that it sounds cool.)
In phrases like “blueblack” and “banked fires blaze,” the poem alliterates (or repeats the beginning sounds of words) on a lot of harsh sounds, particularly on the letter B. When you read the poem out loud (or listen to Hayden reading it), the beginning of the poem sounds super severe. You can almost feel yourself out there in the cold with the speaker’s father.
There’s also another kind of repetition in the poem—the repetition of an entire phrase. Line 13 is just a repetition of the same phrase twice: “What did I know, what did I know.” Heartbreaking, don't you think?
See, early on in the poem, we were out there in the harsh cold with the speaker’s father; now, we’re listening to the speaker sobbing out his words, as if he’s stumbling over his feelings, trying to catch his breath as he explains what he’s learned. Hayden makes so much meaning out of this one little repetition—it’s really the hinge of the poem’s emotions.
Now, excuse us while we go find ourselves some tissues.