The Complete PoemsThe Complete Poems by Thomas Hardy
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Neutral Tones

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.

is it because i am a girl and am having a bad day and am therefore susceptible to wildly windmilling mood swings that coming across this poem again in the hardy bio i am reading today made me cry a little? i had forgotten all about this poem. i was always more of an In Tenebris girl, myself: quiet contemplation of death and cherishing memories blah blah blah. but i remember this poem now. and i remember when i studied it in my modernism class in undergrad, there was a typo in the copy we were reading, and it said “chidden by” instead of “chidden of” god. andohwhat a wonderful time we all had as pretentious english major kiddies weighing what one would mean over the other, and how it affected not only that particular poem, but the following poems in the collection. money well spent, dad! if i recall correctly, the very next class we spent the whole time on one passage from portrait of the artistthe one in the church?? with the sins “dripping from his lips” as he kneels before the priest that ends with the word “overcome”?? i learned a lot about subtext in that class, boy. i seem to have gotten off point, if i was ever on. hardy’s poetry is beautiful, that’s all. the satires of circumstance part has all the funny ones, but the rest are so gently sad and quiet. never overwrought, just quiet musings on some sad things. i’m having one of those weeks…i think i will go have another cleansing cry…

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