The Book That Cheered Me up on a Winter Weekend

Categories: Those Winter Sundays

Working to identify the single, most important word in the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams (James, Merickel, Loyd, & Perkins 2017 8) was interesting. However, it didn’t take long. I read the poem and then closed my eyes and tried to visualize the scene that Williams had described in such a minimalist way. The word that came to the forefront was “RED.” Red is a strong color and will take the forefront in most settings. If you look outside the window, on a gray rainy day, a red wheelbarrow will still stand out.

The red wheelbarrow described also ties my brain to a red Radio Flyer wagon which is its own visual landmark in my mind.

These connections help to solidify the influence of the word. Red makes the poem strong. It makes the descriptions in the rest of the poem more vivid. Interesting, how a three-letter word can take on so much meaning. “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke And “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden Upon reading both of these poems I am impressed on how I can be transported to a setting and even a feeling in just a few short verses.

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Both “My Papa’s Waltz” and “Those Winter Sundays” are clearly about a father/son relationship (James, Merickel, Loyd, & Perkins 2017 8, 43). Both poems seem to convey a relationship that is not an emotionally close one. Both poems pull you into a feeling and a setting but then leave you with a sense of ‘can’t quite put my finger on it.

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’ Almost like only seeing one scene from a play. You understand, but you still don’t have the big picture of what is going on without watching the whole thing.

Both of these poems have me wanting to know more about the whole story. “My Papa’s Waltz” is a poem about a boy’s memory. Roethke’s poem describes a playful reprieve between a father and son in otherwise routine life of hard work and responsibilities. It begins by describing a father who has had too much to drink…but he is a happy drunk. Roethke goes on to describe the father waltzing around the kitchen with a very young boy hanging on. The father’s manner is brusque and wild, the boy smashing his hand as he is wildly thrown about, scraping his ear on his father’s buckle at the abrupt movements, and the mother’s glare at these antics is typical (Roethke 1942). But, the child seems content with these happy times, however short, as suggested when he is put to bed “still clinging to your shirt” (Roethke 1942). When describing the father’s hands caked hard by dirt the writer also implies that the father does manual labor (Roethke 1942).

I am imagining the time frame in which this poem was written for setting context. Life was different then. There was a war going on and everyone had their part to play, adult or child. The work ethic was stronger. In this poem, I see a hard-working father who has returned home late after a long day of manual labor. Dinner was eaten in a small, simple, yet comfortable home. The fire is going, the radio is on and the boy’s father is sitting in the living room in his chair. While the table is cleared and the kitchen is cleaned he has a few drinks. The warmth, the food, the fire, the whisky, they have all combined to put him into a happy mood. Right place, right time…the boy is snagged up by his father, and the rough and tumble waltzing ensues. Of course, his mother is going to glare as no one is having any regard for the order that she has in her house. And now, it’s time for bed. Putting a small boy to bed after a rare and happy waltz with his hard-working father would make me want to cling on too. “Those Winter Sundays” is also about a boy’s childhood memory. Although this account does not seem so warm, bright, and lively as the previous poem. Hayden’s poem brings to light a boy’s fearful respect for his father and confusion at his father’s expression of love (James, Merickel, Loyd, & Perkins 2017 43).

This poem is in such contrast with the feeling of the “My Papa’s Waltz,” but just as vivid. The first verse seems to be written from the boy’s perspective when he is older. He is looking back on his childhood experiences and understands how hard-working and responsible his father was. He seems to understand the sacrifice he made in getting up and preparing everything for his family. The tasks that everyone took for granted and no one thanked him for. In the second verse the boy goes on to describe his actual viewpoint as a child. He would wake up hearing wood splintering as his father chopped it for the fire. His father would call him down only after the house was warm. The last part of verse two had me thinking of two different possible descriptions. First, “chronic anger of the house” could refer to the creaking floorboards that he tries to avoid while getting dressed (Hayden 1966). Or, the second, which I’ve concluded is the most likely meaning based on the last verse.

“Chronic angers of the house,” could mean that his father has a regular tendency toward anger and the boy is anxious about inevitably angering him (Hayden 1966). The last verse begins by describing his attitude as he grew older. Speaking to his father indifferently and with resentment. Which is understandable based on his father’s volatile temperament. The last two lines of the third verse circle back to the first verse. The now-grown boy concludes that even though his childhood relationship with his father was confusing, and tense, he sees his father’s hard work in the thankless jobs as his way of expressing his love. “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen “Dulce Et Decorum Est” is a strong example of poetry that demonstrates the use of Aristotle’s three appeals: PATHOS – feeling, ETHOS – credibility, and LOGOS – logic (James, Merickel, Loyd, & Perkins 2017 36). The use of PATHOS is evident in lines 6, 17 and 21: Line 6 “But limped on, blood-shod.

All went lame; all blind” (Owen 1917). Line 17 “If in some smothering dream you too could pace…”(Owen 1917), Line 21 “If you could hear, at every jolt the blood…”(Owen 1917), While the entire poem is vividly descriptive of the horrors endured by the narrator, these three lines stood out in particular in their usage of PATHOS. The first example paints a picture of hurt, pain, and a feeling of finality in the circumstance. It appeals to the emotion of sadness in ourselves concerning the circumstances of the narrator. Line 17 asks that the reader imagine the terror of reliving this dream, or nightmare, over and over again. The last line forces the reader to listen and hear the sound of a man dying a slow, hideous death. All three lines (and more) truly paint a picture of war, graphic enough for the reader to feel and imagine on some level. ETHOS is especially present in lines 2, 14 and 18: Line 2 “Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,”(Owen 1917)

Line 4 “And towards our distant rest began to trudge,”(Owen 1917) Line 18 “Behind the wagon that we flung him in,”(Owen 1917) Through the use of the words “we” and “our” Owen is providing proof that the narrator has been in the situation that is being described. The narrator’s presence demonstrates credibility to the reader and helps validate his standpoint in the argument or LOGOS. Discovering the LOGOS in the poem was actually the appeal I enjoyed researching the most. Lines 25-28 very clearly present the argument. Line 25-28 “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro Patria Mori (Owen 1917)” In order to understand the argument the first step is to translate the Latin phrase “Dulce et decorum est pro Patria Mori.” The phrase means “it is sweet and proper to die for one’s country” (‘The War Poetry Website’ 2011). The quote is actually attributed to a an ode written by Quintus Horatius Flaccus (‘The War Poetry Website’ 2011). Horace, as he seems to be referred to in literature, was a Roman poet and satirist in 65 b.c.

Owens wrote this poem in 1917, the middle of World War I (Royde-Smith & Showalter 2019). This fact, even though it is not technically a part of the poem, solidifies the credibility of the argument of the author himself. Owens is arguing that the statement made by Horace is a lie (Owen 1917). Even in the honor of serving one’s country, death is not “sweet” or even “proper” (Owen 1917). Death in war is terrifying, gruesome, and horrible to witness or experience. He is arguing that the reader should not lie to children in presenting a romantic view of war and all that it entails (Owen 1917). Owens has done an excellent job of pulling the reader in with descriptions that draw emotion from the reader, provided credibility for the viewpoint, and lastly, clearly presented his argument. “Dulce Et Decorum Est” is written in a style that is characteristic of romantic poetry. Characteristics of romantic poetry are that it is: emotional, almost religious in presentation, places the importance of childhood innocence and proposes the “idea that the poet is a visionary figure” (‘Romanticism’ 2019).

There are various other characteristics of romantic poetry but these four are unmistakable in this poem. Owens is very emotional in his vivid descriptions, and he presents them with almost religious awe. Upon reading the last four lines of the poem the reader can see the importance that Owens has placed on maintaining the innocence of a child but do not lie to them, and do not dishonor the men who have experienced the desperation of war and death. He presents his argument in a way that portrays himself as the revealer of this truth. Because these characteristics are clear, this poem can be categorized as a poem written in the romantic style. I do not view this poem as a particularly anti-war expression. This poem does not argue for or against the honor of serving one’s country. It does not argue for or against war. The argument is expressly the view that death is neither sweet and proper during war. He is asking to reader to understand this and to not lie to youth by presenting it as such.

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The Book That Cheered Me up on a Winter Weekend. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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