Dec. 3, 2004

Those Winter Sundays

by Robert Hayden

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Poem: "Those Winter Sundays," by Robert Hayden, from Angel of Ascent © Liveright. Reprinted with permission.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too
my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the
cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently
to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of film director Jean-Luc Godard, born in Paris, France (1930). While a student at the Sorbonne, he met François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette and others who would become known as the French New Wave. He was a film critic before he was a director, and wrote for the journal Cahiers du Cinéma. He went to work as a laborer and used his paychecks to finance his first film, a documentary about construction. His first feature film was Breathless, which caused a sensation. An older director once asked him if he wouldn't admit that a movie should have a beginning, middle and end. "Yes," Godard said, "but not necessarily in that order." His other films include A Woman is a Woman, Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, and Weekend.

It's the birthday of writer Joseph Conrad, born Jozef Teodor Konrad Naleca Korzeniowski, in Berdyczew, Poland (1857). He joined the French marine service when he was sixteen, and spent the next four years shipping out of Marseilles. Next he went to England, shipping out as an ordinary seaman and working his way up to master in the British Merchant Service. When the novelist John Galsworthy was one of his passengers, he showed him a manuscript he had been working on. Galsworthy encouraged him, and Conrad published it as Almayer's Folly. He became a professional writer, after nearly twenty years on ships, and settled in Kent. He wrote The Nigger of the Narcissus, Lord Jim, The Heart of Darkness and Nostromo.

It's the birthday of chemist and home economist Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards, born on a farm outside of Dunstable, Massachusetts (1842), the "mother of home economics." She taught chemistry for many years at M.I.T., and became a pioneer in the field of nutrition, applying scientific principles to daily living.

It's the birthday of American portrait painter Gilbert Stuart, born in North Kingstown, Rhode Island (1755). He went to Scotland and then London to learn painting. Then, to escape his creditors, he moved back to America and painted many prominent Americans, including U.S. chief justice John Jay. His most famous painting is that of George Washington.

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