Neutral Tones is a poem that deals with love, reflection and emotional hurt. Now, as then, it seems suffused with that grim atmosphere so instantly recognizable as Hardyesque — a quality so palpable in poem after poem that it seems to exist above and beyond the poems themselves. The stressed syllables of two adjacent iambs could thus be measured against each other, rather than merely against preceding unstressed syllables. The third line adds more to the description of the depressing scene. The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing Alive enough to have strength to die; And a grin of bitterness swept thereby Like an ominous bird a-wing.
Two ill-fated lovers are locked, or were locked, or will be locked sometimes all three in a death struggle with love. The sun Usually associated with life and joy - here the sun is white and seemingly deprived of its power to warm and nurture. Wessex Poems and Other Verses. It contrasts with the typical colour of the sun — yellow — a symbol for vibrancy and happiness, both emotions that Hardy does not feel about or achieve from loving the woman. I guess there is always a poem like that for everyone, one that touches the heart. The bleak imagery evokes a scene of emptiness and spent joy; the two lovers have little of importance to say to each other and the speaker finds no solace in his ex-partner's expression. Memory In Hardy's re-telling, these events have been bleached of all their life.
Overall Impression The poem is suffused with despair but nowhere is the tone of neutral melancholy really broken. This is perhaps unsurprising given the poems title. Nature, love and her troubled past were always visible in her poetry. The indifferent speaker, a victim, learning a hard truth, unreconciled, is back where it all began. The Wessex Poems are marked by a lack of adornment; they are generally bleak like the countryside that forms the background to most of these poems. By using slightly archaic verb forms like this, Hardy can elevate the tone of his poem to sound more timeless and more serious.
It has a tone of tenderness mixed with deep regret and even bitterness, packing poetic devices and original imagery into the four short stanzas to make a powerfully emotional piece of poetry. There is some ambiguity; there is no definitive conclusion but the speaker seems uncomfortable. This means that when he returns to his visual imagery at the end of the poem, it has only become harsher. Form and Tone The poem is atypical of a Hardy poem and synonymous with poems produced in the romantic style. Colour is used throughout the poem to emphasise the tone of the poem. Is it what he would say if he could? They are gray, as though the colour has drained from them.
In his lyric poetry especially, it always seems to be a damp, gray day. With a mix of iambs and anapaests in tetrameter and trimeter there is a varied rhythm throughout. In fact, it spans two. It could be interpreted that the narrator is trying hard to make the journey from being heartbroken to finding colour in the word but always seems to wind back at square one. With the passage of time comes harsh reality - he has been taught a sharp lesson - love is sometimes a lie and has led him away from the truth. Since then, keen lessons that love deceives, And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree, And a pond edged with grayish leaves. The tone and mood of this poem is gloomy and depressing, this is because in 1912 Emma died and the titanic sunk.
In addition, the sun and pond are circular and non-angular in shape; this portrays that Hardy feels as if there is no escape from the negativity that he finds to be attached to his love and that it is never ending, in a loop. The repetition of the first two lines in every stanza emphasizes on the happiness Hardy feels, it is as if he is proud and almost showing Emma off. In the latter end of the poem he talks about his regrets. A fine analysis of the poem can be found. Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove Over tedious riddles solved years ago; And some words played between us to and fro-- On which lost the more by our love. Two lovers meet, perhaps for the last time, to decide if their relationship is worth preserving.
What is obvious though is the meaning of individual words. Like Owen Sheers, Hardy uses winter as the perfect backdrop to this dying relationship. The speaker looks back to a particular day when all seemed neutral, pale and lacking hope. The reader or listener may interpret this as a religious reference from Hardy — perhaps he feels that his failing love is inevitable because it has been predefined by God this introduces the idea of fate coming into the equation. At this point in both the poem and the relationship, there is a feeling of things going wrong, but the couple are together. The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing Alive enough to have strength to die; And a grin of bitterness swept thereby Like an ominous bird a-wing….
Second stanza Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove Over tedious riddles of years ago; And some words played between us to and fro On which lost the more by our love. Nothing seems to have inspired Hardy to write great poetry so much as the death of a woman he was once close to but had grown estranged from. There are two analytical interpretations of this poem in this article. This straightforward grouping of sets of four lines is one of the simplest and most recognisable poetic forms. The descriptions in the first stanza are all colourless neutral tones which suggests that Hardy feels as if he has no colour in his life, no love. Hardy also may have meant for the sun to symbolise his relationship — God could have made it shine with yellow positivity, but instead He has made it a drab white tone; perhaps Hardy feels as if his relationship and love have been condemned by God. Not only that, this is a different time period in the relationship.