Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” is one of his most memorable works. Appropriate for middle and high school students, the poem reminds readers of the silent, thankless acts of love that we often fail to notice. In many cases, the most selfless instances of love are the least glamorous. “Those Winter Sundays” is a wonderful poem to study around Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or any occasion for remembering those who have helped us along the way while teaching poems.
The speaker's father "got up early/and put his clothes on" each day. The clunky, simplistic phrasing helps characterize the father as a simple, country laborer. He works with his hands and may have limited education.
The poem contains several instances of alliteration in phrases such as "blueblack cold" and "banked fires blaze". The repetition of the "b" sounds suggests the cold. It evokes the sound of winter wind, shivering lips, and the expression "brrrr".
The speaker uses smoother diction to explain that he "would rise and dress." The sophisticated verbs "rise" and "dress" suggest a difference between the son and father. The son seems more educated and likely does not rely on hard labor to subsist.
Alliteration with words like "cold", "cracked", "call", and "chronic" echoes the splintering and breaking the speaker mentions. The hard "c" mimics the sound of ice cracking or cold boards creaking. connecting the speaker’s cold family life and the chasm between him and his father.