WE stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.
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.
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….
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.Thomas Hardy
The Poem Neutral Tones by Hardy, written 144 years ago, has been subject to a number of interpretations, but most agree that it talks about the end of a relationship…
The story begins and ends in the same place….it is a passionate poem, full of regret…. “tedious riddles solved years ago” tells us this is no recent friendship, but possibly a long standing affair filled with bitter exchanges…possibly this is Eliza Nicholls, from whom he had been estranged, then met again much later…
Sorrowful regret and reminiscence resound throughout the poem, but yet we can’t mistake the fact that these two love each other…the dead smile on her face is a heart wrenching oxymoron…they both know that this is the end..
Hardy is such a marvellous story teller that in reading this work we all feel his pain…I can clearly see them facing each other across the pond on that bleak winters day…..’course I made the pond a little prettier….Watercolour on Arches Paper
See the Hardy Collection by clicking the link on the right…