The speaker reflects back to a particular moment in their life when they realized that the love had died between them and the person they were in a relationship with. They consider what this moment has meant to them since.

Ideas and Themes:

  • Death
  • Memory/ Nature


  • First 3 stanzas are a specific memory, but time jumps to final stanza when love is reflected on in general.
  • Poem ends where it began with an image of a pond. Cyclical structure shows how he’s been repeatedly hurt since that first day. Experiences will always lie with him.


  • Written from man’s point of view addressing past lover
  • First and last lines of each stanza rhyme reflecting how a past memory returns to him
  • Indented final line of each stanza slows down the pace by creating a pause- this hints at his sadness of the relationship failing and not working out his way


  • “We stood by a pond that winter day”– Lack of physical movement in “stood” contributes to lifeless atmosphere. “Winter” reflects the cold emotions between them.
  • “Sun was white as though chidden by God”- Sun has been drained of colour reflects how love was drained from their relationship. “Chidden” possibly shows how God has scolded the sun which adds to the bleak mood and hints narrator always sees negatives in life.
  • “Starving Sod”- Alliteration and personification emphasises imagery of suffering. Lifeless ground presents the dyeing relationship.
  • “Eyes that rove, over” Enjambment shows how eyes move over his face. The words sound similar which shows the boredom she felt in the relationship
  • “Tedious riddles…Words played…which lost” Game imagery shows how relationships are supposed to fun and challenging but they’re one isn’t
  • “Smile on your mouth was the deadest thing”. Oxymoron shows lack of feeling and emotion
  • “Alive enough to have strength to die”- shows how she let the relationship die.
  • “Like an ominous bird fly away…” Bird flying away shows how relationship ended. Ellipses represents time of when relationship ended
  • “God curst sun”- change from “chidden” to “curst” sounds more violent showing increasing bitterness towards his lover and to love as a whole
  • Greyish leaves”. Leaves are grey because they are rotting as there love did.

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Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "‘Neutral Tones’ by Thomas Hardy: Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,
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