Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
The Warm and the Cold
“Those Winter Sundays” is very concerned with the temperature. First it’s cold. Like, really, really, really cold. Then, fires are lit! It’s warm. Super warm. So why all this focus on the temperature? Well, the temperature outside and inside the house reflects on the speaker’s relationship with his father. In other words, the temperature is a symbol or representation of the speaker’s inner feelings and relationships. The weather is cold, and hey, the young speaker’s relationship with his father is indifferent and (emotionally) cold. Whaddya know?
- Title: The poem takes place in the winter. It’s both winter outside and it’s winter in the speaker’s young heart. See what we did there?
- Lines 1-5: The speaker’s dad has to labor in the “blueblack cold.” Can’t you feel that cold freezing and nipping at your nose? Hayden captures that early morning winter feeling perfectly with the neologism “blueblack.”
- Lines 5-7: While his father experiences the blueblackness, the speaker gets to live it up in the warmth that his father makes happen. The harsh cold splinters and breaks, and the speaker experiences warmth from the fires that his father has lit.
- Lines 10-11: But the speaker treats his father icily; he is emotionally cool and indifferent. His father has created literal warmth in the house, but not emotional warmth. The speaker doesn’t understand his dad’s literal warmth as his expression of love. Bummer, right?