The title of the poem is ¡§Neutral Tones.¡¨ It indicates the tone of the poem-neutral-without strong or noticeable qualities, very weak or colorless. The speaker might be disappointed and discouraged about his lover. And the tones may be the manner of expression or the variety of a color. We can see the color of the poem is kind of gray.
The first line ¡§We stood by a pond that winter day.¡¨ ¡§we¡¨ should be the speaker and his lover. The pond may be like a hole on his heart; something has lost. The pond is full of water like the speaker¡¦s tears. The pond gets frozen in winter like the love between the speaker and his lover. And in the winter day everything gets fading because of coldness, inclusive of the love between the speaker and his lover.
¡§And the sun was white¡¨ expresses the scenery lacking of living power, the heat of love. Also the snow in the winter is white. Maybe the speaker felt cold inside because the despair about love. Or maybe the speaker thought love is like the sunlight of a day. It become brighter and brighter from the dawn to the mid-day, and then fades out gradually till nightfall.
¡§And a few leaves lay on the starving sod-they had fallen from an ash, and were gray.¡¨ The leaves had fallen down from the tree, the symbol of life. Also the tree is an ash, which might be related to ash, soft gray powder that remains after something has been burnt. And the word ¡§fallen¡¨ might be symbolic of the speaker¡¦s disappointment about love. It seems like the speaker was like those leaves fell from the heaven to the ground. Besides, the color gray, is not alive. It gives a dreary and depressed impression. The starving sod might be the reflection of the speaker¡¦s desire of love.
¡§Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove over tedious riddles of years ago.¡¨ The speaker¡¦s lover didn¡¦t feel excitement and flesh about the speaker anymore after their love had remained several years. The ¡§you¡¨ the speaker spoke to might be his former lover or anyone.
¡§And some words played between us to and fro on which lost the more by our love.¡¨ Some words might be those sweet words like ¡§I love you¡¨ or anything else. Lovers were always played on by those words. Their love was somehow like a game. The one paid more affection was the loser.
¡§The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing alive enough to have strength to die.¡¨ The thing the speaker remembered most about his lover may be her smile. However the smile was the deadest thing of his lover, it might indicate again that the lover didn¡¦t have passion about the speaker anymore. For the speaker, the deadest smile was so alive, shaking him so strongly, that their love had the strength to die. ¡§And a grin of bitterness swept thereby like an ominous bird a-wing.¡¨ The sentence expresses the feeling that seems the speaker could do nothing to change the situation. He was forced to accept the sad result. Eventually, their love flew away like a bird. The speaker described the bird as ominous because he didn¡¦t like it at all. The third stanza is very irony and full of contrasts: deadest-alive, strength-die, grin-bitterness.
¡§Since then, keen lessons that love deceives, and wrings with wrong, have shaped to me your face, the God-curst sun, and a tree, and a pond edged with grayish leaves.¡¨ The keen lessons the speaker had learned was that love wouldn¡¦t last the same hot temperature always. Somehow love would fade with time. The last word ¡§leaves¡¨ should indicate the speaker¡¦s lover¡¦s leaving. The last stanza makes us know that memory would usually work with the related scenery we know and remember. Also the first and the last stanza mention same thing like sun, tree and pond. This may symbolizes the memory would not fail. The speaker would think about this sad love affair again and again.
The way the whole poem is arranged is very regular. Every stanza has four lines. And the last line of every stanza starts after some spaces and is short than previous three lines. It may indicates that the love¡¦s fading.
I think it¡¦s really a sad thing that our love would not remain the same forever. We might fall in love with someone deeply and with crazy one day. However there¡¦s no one could tell if we will love the ones the same one year later. Somehow love is like the dew, we should catch it as soon as we can, or it would disappear next moment. Though love might fade, we cannot deny we have fallen in love really.