I am going to write about three poems, a Thomas Hardy poem called ‘Neutral Tones’ and the other two, from ‘Relationships’ collection. My choices are ‘Our Love Now’ and ‘Song for Last Year’s Wife’. I am going to explore the way the poets present their feelings about relationships.
Firstly, I am going to write about ‘Neutral Tones’. This poem is about the relationship between the poet and his wife, who did not love each other any longer. ‘Neutral Tones’ is written negatively, in a depressing way, shows the marriage died in the cold, bitter winter. The poet chose this title ‘Neutral Tones’ to show that there are no emotions in the marriage and suggests the colour is dull and dreary.
The structure of this poem is split into four stanzas; each of them has rhymes effect at the end of the line, ABBA. This is how the first four lines end,
“…that winter day” “…chidden of God” “…starving sod” “…and were gray”
This is because the first and last lines, AA that goes around a circle like a circular pond. Their relationship will get worse in a ruthless, repeated cycle where it ends at the pond where the poem is set at the start.
In the third stanza, the poet uses a metaphor to describe how his wife doesn’t show that she loves him.
“The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing”
It shows how the poet’s wife uses a sarcastic smile at him and shows that she doesn’t love him. A very strange, unpleasant metaphor for her smile and their relationship would be better if she hadn’t smiled at all. The poet dreads her smile and this affects their relationship.
The poet describes his suffering by using alliteration.
“…starving sod” “…wrings with wrong”
This tells us that the poet’s suffering goes on and on. The ‘w’ sound is long and drawn out and makes us feel his suffering. Also it makes the winter sound almost cruel with the repeated ‘s’ sound, and harsh and cruel can describe Hardy and his wife.
There are also examples of emotive language in this poem.
“…lost the more by our love” “…keen lessons that love deceives”
It makes us feel negative and sad because it indicates an inner pain and turmoil yet to heal.
The poet described the atmosphere as cold, bitter and emotionless.
“We stood by a pond that winter day”
The poet uses imagery to provide sombre winter scene. The relationship could be connecting to the plants and love died, with the use of dull, drab colours like gray to illustrate the sombre mood. This is called ‘Pathetic fallacy’.
In my opinion, I find the poem quite depressing with many references to neutral things, such as colours and the landscape, yet the emotions expressed in this poem are very black.
Secondly, I am going to write about ‘Our Love Now’. This poem is an argument between two lovers. It is written in alternative statements, giving a man’s point of view first and the woman’s second.
In man’s point of view in left column in second stanza, the poet uses repetition
“Such is our love, such is our love”
It shows the poet wants to persuade his wife that his point of view is right.
The poet uses lots of emotive language to explain the “damage” can be repaired and a woman thinks all these suffering will last longer.
“…skin slowly knits” “…cut will mend” “…red burnt flesh is ugly”
It shows the poem is so emotional that it is clear to us how each of these people feel, one person thinks their relationship is worth fighting for, the other does not.
The poet uses lots of similar images of hurt and harm to express his feelings about his relationship in the past. They are metaphors which aptly describe their relationship.
“…wound” “…cut” “…scab” “…scald” “…storm”
All of these are suggestions of pain or damage and they all sound unpleasant to me, but the poet thinks they will all heal and things will get better. He seems to be admitting things between him and his wife have been bad but they can be better again.
Similarly, the female narrator uses images to reveal her own feelings about their relationship.
“…There is always a scar” “…the skin remains bleached” “…The tree is forever dead”
All of these are permanent reminders of something very painful that happened and she seems to feel that their relationship has too many scars and unpleasant memories to survive.
The structure of the poem looks like tennis match in a way. The left column is positive view and on the right is negative view. The two speakers give their opinions again and it goes back and forth. It is a story of unrequited love.
Thirdly, I am going to write about ‘Song for Last Year’s wife’. The relationship between the poet and his ex-wife ended a year ago and is linked to the winter and the loss. The poet desperately wants his ex-wife back.
The poet uses emotive language to show various descriptions of winter and death to convey to the reader the sense of loss in the poem.
“Alice, this is my first winter of waking without you…” “…The earth’s still as hard, the same empty gardens exist…”
These lines are like a comparison between the narrator losing his marriage and the company of his wife, and the leaves disappearing from the trees because everything dies in winter, just as his relationship died. Although, these lines could make us think Alice is dead. We feel sorry for him here.
Another example of emotive language is in line 8,
“…it is as if nothing special had changed”
It sounds as if the world doesn’t know they’ve split up. Also if this marriage had ended in the summer time, then we would not feel the emotions of loss, depression and things ending or dying. This is a ‘Sympathetic background’.
The reader also finds themselves feeling sorry for Alice who has walked out of this marriage.
“I send out my spies, to discover what you are doing”
We feel that this is unfair and that Alice cannot just get on with her life. The poet almost wants the reader to believe his opinion, as we only hear the husband’s side of the story. The title further makes us feel little sympathy for the husband. Has he replaced Alice with a new wife?
This poem is a dramatic monologue because only one person is talking all the way through in one long stanza, and we don’t know what Alice’s opinion is. I think all these references to winter describe dying and bitter cold. This is a reflection of the death of the relationship.
These three poems that I explored have a negative view of couple’s reactions to their relationship. The first poem, ‘Neutral Tones’ is very depressing poem and reflecting on the end of a relationship. ‘Our Love Now’ is about a couple’s huge differences of opinion. ‘Song for Last Year’s Wife’ is about a man who wanted his ex-wife Alice, to be reunited once again and also this poem is very similar to ‘Neutral Tones’.