Name: Dana Tsai
In the poem "Neutral Tone" the speaker used images to describe/reflect the dying of love.
The first stanza is the description of nature. There is "pun" in these words. The season winter is generally considered the season of "death", accompanied with plants getting withered, leaves falling and cold, hopeless feeling. And the mentioned colors - white, gray imply something cold and passionless. All these and also some other words, such as "chidden of God", "starving sod", are images of deadliness. Therefore, although from this stanza readers still cannot find a main them yet, but the images and descriptions have given a sort of sad, deadly feeling.
Here we see a metaphor. The speaker compares his lovers eyes to tedious and old(solved years ago) riddle. The word "tedious" actually reveals what the speaker thinks of the relationship between him and his lover. Has the love become passionless or just some kind of "form" in daily life? Conversations have become "routines"; they are just words "played" between them "to and fro", and communication is mechanical and meaningless.
The next stanza focuses on the smile of the speaker's lover. <íK the deadest thing/ Alive enough to have strength to die;/ And a grin of bitterness swept thereby/ Like an ominous bird a-wingíK> Here the speaker again uses the words "deadest" and "die" to suggest their dying love.
From the first stanza to the third one, the speaker is talking about how the felt at the moment. But in the last stanza, he re-described the natural images. Here the difference is that the descriptions are combined with memory. To put these two elements, imagery and memory, together, the images got more meaningful. If we compare the first stanza with the last one, we can clearly feel how memory works. Through the process of "looking/thinking" back, the lessons are shaped and the natural scenes get the meaning.
In a poem imagery can say a lot. Take this poem for instance, the description of natural scenes is actually the speaker's projection of his own feeling and also implies the dying love and cold relationship between the two lovers. By combination of imagery and memory, Thomas Hardy made the theme clearly stand out.