An Analysis of Neutral Tones by Thomas Hardy
"We stood by a pond that winter day," (1) This line indicates a still quietness, with lack of the movement of life. There is a vast difference in appearance and movement around a pond in winter and a pond in the midst of summer. This indicates no leaves, and no visible signs of life. The poet is painting a stark and lifeless scene.
"And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,"(2) This is indicative of the modernist approach to light as being too harsh and not a positive factor. Chidden means scolded, rebuked, or even blamed. God is not looking favorably upon these people.
"And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;"(3) Leaves fall from trees when they are dead, and the term 'starving' refers to the dying of the ground.
"They had fallen from an Ash, and were gray,"(4) Ash trees are very beautiful hardwood trees, and this line indicates the passing of beauty, and ties in with the dying leaves mentioned in line three. This first stanza indicates that something once beautiful is dying.
"Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove"(5) When lovers who are in love look upon one another, it is usually with a fixed gaze. That old love song, "I only have eyes for you" helps explain the poets anguish when he realizes his lover is no longer mesmerized while in his company.
"Over tedious riddles of years ago;" (6) is indicative of some unresolved problems between the two people in this poem.
"And some words played between us to and fro" (7) seems to indicate small talk and mindless chatter.
"On which lost the more by our love"(8) tells the reader that the poet is unhappy with the chatter and would rather be speaking of the unresolved problems betwee...
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...a definite and recognizable pattern. This poem is certainly not a sonnet, either in subject matter, meaning, or format. The rhyme scheme for this poem is that of A B B A, C D D C, E F F E, G H H G. There is enough continuity in this rhyme scheme to hold the poem together as a whole through the use of the pattern, however the changing of the actual rhyming words and the fact that, for instance, the A word is only repeated one time (as are all of the others) intensifies the poets feelings of loss over the change in his love's desires. Through the rhyming scheme, the poet is conveying the hopelessness of the two of them getting back together and repeating the beautiful love they once shared.
Damrosch, David, et al., ed. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Vol. B. Compact ed. New York: Longman - Addison Wesley Longman, 2000. p. 2256