It can be assumed that Robert Hayden personally speaks through the voice of the speaker in his poem “Those Winter Sundays”. His distant relationship with his father is clear in the poem. In this melancholic poem, he narrates about the concealed appreciation of a son for his father’s acts of love by means of writing it in a prose. The narrator tells about the labors of his father even on a cold winter Sunday. However, in the poem, the speaker emphasizes that his father’s great efforts are usually ignored.
The title of the poem itself already suggests a background for the readers. The speaker is obviously focused only on the “winter Sundays” and why it means too much work for the father. In the first stanza of the poem, the detailed description of the speaker’s father is very noticeable. He illustrated him by means of mentioning his physical condition as he works on cold Sundays. He could have described it in a clearer way by going straight to the point. Nevertheless, he expressed his father’s poor countenance in a way that the reader can visualize the father’s hands cracked hands and the busy Sundays.
The first two lines of the poem somewhat develops a thesis that would cover the whole idea in the poem. “Sundays too my father got up early / And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,” (1-2). Sundays should be a day of rest but the speaker stresses that his father still wakes up even before the sun rose to go to work. He further highlights the weary countenance of his father as he describes his father’s “cracked hands that ached / from labor in the weekday weather made / Banked fires blaze” (3-5). The poem further shows how heartbreaking the father’s situation must be by writing the last line of the first stanza with, “No one ever thanked him” (5). With the last line, it is reasonable to consider that the speaker is one of those people who failed to thank him. In this regard, it can be assumed that the speaker is already in his old or middle age when he remembers how his father has shown him love in his own way.
The second stanza is quite parallel to the first stanza where he described the actions of his father but later on the last line, he shows the unappreciative side. The speaker reveals that on Sundays, after his father has driven out the cold and had already warmed their house, he would call. It is not definite whether he would call the speaker and the rest of the family or just the speaker alone. However, it is clear in this stanza that the speaker feels no excitement or willingness whatsoever to heed to his father as he would “And slowly I would rise and dress, / fearing the chronic angers of that house,” (8-9). Mentioning the “chronic angers” in the house further develops Hayden as the actual speaker because his childhood has been filled with beatings from his father. He also speaks of the indifference he feels talking to his father in the third stanza even if his father has already did a lot of things for him such as polishing his shoes. “Speaking indifferently to him / Who had driven out the cold / And polished my good shoes as well” (10-12).
By analyzing the poems thoroughly, the tone and mood of the speaker can be easily understood. In the last stanza, the feeling of regret is present in the voice of the speaker. He tries to justify his indifference to his father by asking the question, “What did I know, what did I know / Of love’s austere and lonely offices?” (13-14). He insists quite defensively that he was young then by using the past form “did”. He was not aware that love could be shown in silent ways. It speaks of social and moral issues which are current in the society. Discrimination and stereotypical beliefs contribute to these issues greatly. Nowadays, people tend to forget how to appreciate others’ sacrifices and sufferings because most of them are too busy with their own personal growth. Most people disregard the fact that if we just open our eyes to the people around us, they are no different from us. The poem just revolves around one main idea—a disregarded and unappreciated love. They go unnoticed and without complaints. No matter how invisible their good intentions seem; still they work hard for the sake of loving it.