This is a poem about disappointed love, and is probably auto-biographical; it is known that Hardy struggled with several challenging relationships during his life.
And they build a shady seat.
Ah, no; the years, the years, See, the white storm-birds wing across. The first five lines show family members of different generations clearing and preparing the lawn, perhaps for a garden party.
The scene is festive. The storm-birds are harbingers not only of a particular storm but also of the general work of wind, rain, and time, which will erase the joyful moments in the garden along with the garden itself and the cherished people in it.
This rhetorical pattern, replicated in all four stanzas, contains two thematic perspectives, where the first five lines point one way and the last two point another. We are here for a while, and then we are gone.
They exist together in tragic equipoise, five lines to life, two lines to dissolution, bound together by the structure. Another formal element that serves the meaning is the shortened fourth line of each stanza.
While the first three lines contain mostly three stresses, the fourth contains only two feet and two stresses. When you come upon that fourth line, the change in sound pattern creates a sonic effect of falling short, a disappointment in the ear when the expected third stress fails to sound.
This rhythmic deflation of the fourth line hints at the inadequacy of gardens, nice houses, and families to save us in the grand scheme of nature and time. Listen to how it plays out in the third stanza: They are blithely breakfasting all— Men and maidens—yea, With a glimpse of the bay, While pet fowl come to the knee.
Ah, no; the years O! And the rotten rose is ript from the wall. How does this happen?
It may have something to do with psycho-acoustics, but I would explain it this way: By sonically suggesting things that will not endure, the line itself embraces the binary view inherent in the whole poem—the lovely image and the note of sadness. What about the rhyme scheme?
It does not vary: In each stanza, the end of the first line, which is part of the happy tableau, rhymes with the end of the last line, seven away, where the doomful message sounds.
In a well-wrought poem, this kind of sonic equality will suggest a relationship beyond mere sound. In this case, the equivalence points up the radically ironic contrast in meaning: This musical echo reaching across the stanza is another technique for yoking together the happy five-line unit with the dark two-line ending.
This rhyme, repeating continuously in those positions in each of the four stanzas, works against the discontinuity that the poem is about. What does all this have to do with a moral attitude? The ideal comes into play as language organized formally that controls time and imparts order.
Time passes, people perish, nature overwhelms. This implies the futility of having a garden and a house. Can a poem last? Perhaps it can if it is worthy of the idea that it expresses.
It must be commensurate in its form and comportment the ideal with the observed facts that it describes the real. Such a poem at least stands a chance of outlasting the specific garden, the house, the wife, the man. In Hardy, there is never an alcohol-fueled linguistic rampage, as in Hart Crane.
This was a contrast that Yvor Winters was very fond of. He bashed Hart Crane at every turn."Neutral Tones" is a poem written by Thomas Hardy in Forming part of his collection Wessex Poems and Other Verses, it is the most widely praised of his early poems.
 It is about the end of a relationship, and carries strong emotional appeal despite its "neutral tones".Author: Thomas Hardy. The Thomas Hardy Societies aim is to promote the British novelist and poet’s works for both education and enjoyment.
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Neutral Tones is a poem that deals with love, reflection and emotional hurt. A relationship is about to end.
The speaker looks back to a particular day when all seemed neutral, pale and lacking hope. Even the sun has let them down. Read the poem here. When beginning to think about the poem “During Wind and Rain” by Thomas Hardy, I thought it might be useful to go back for some context to the old pessimist Yvor Winters, who always had provocative things to say about form.