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Comparing 'neutral Tones' and 'when We Two Parted' Grade 9 Essay Answer

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Essay Preview: Comparing 'neutral Tones' and 'when We Two Parted' Grade 9 Essay Answer

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“When we two parted' is a poem about the painful end of a relationship, with suggestions that it was a secret and forbidden love. It is told from the viewpoint of the poet who is struck by grief. It has bitter and melancholic tone. The tone begins to turn to anger and bitterness as the poet acknowledges he is left with deep emotional wounds ‘long shall I rue thee’. The narrator seems angry that his lover has broken promises and is having affairs with other men.  

Likewise, Neutral Tones is a poem about a painful memory, close to the end of a relationship. Neutral Tones was written about a previous relationship that did not last.  It is told from the viewpoint of the poet and similarly has a bitter and resentful tone. The anger fades using repetition of ‘and’ – Hardy lists the bleak elements of the scene that day that he associates with the futile and empty relationship. Hardy returns to his melancholic, sombre state, gazing at the pond, returning to the beginning.  Equally to Byron, he too is caught in an emotional cycle that he cannot move out of. In Neutral Tones the poet is recalling some of the details of the day, the language has become increasingly powerful and bitter.  Hardy acknowledges that he felt ‘deceived’ by love, in particular, this relationship. He makes a pessimistic generalization that all love is deceptive. The sun has changed from ‘white’ to ‘God-curst’ indicating that his feelings are no longer neutral but angry and inflamed. The ‘t’ in ‘curst’ is a harsher sound than ‘chidden’ in the first stanza which hints that the narrator has become more bitter over time.  

Another way in which both poems reflect feelings of unhappiness is through the use of breakdowns in the form. In “When We Two Parted”, the first four lines of the opening stanza feature five syllables and then the sixth line has six syllables. The word which throws off the pattern which seemed to be emerging in the form is “cold” hence this breakdown in form highlights this word and adds to the sense that the fire of their relationship had dwindled out.  In the Hardy poem, line six, in particular, stands out from the rest of the poem which has an iambic pentameter metre. Looking more closely, the phrase “tedious riddles” in line six is very polysyllabic in contrast to the rest of the largely monosyllabic poem. The oxymoron, “tedious riddles” reflect the disinterested and complex state of the relationship due to riddles usually being very challenging but enjoyable. Tedious suggest dull, repetitive and riddles is something that is a challenging puzzle – both fun and infuriating. These riddles, unresolved arguments have continued to plague them for years. There is no solution. In both cases, the breakdown in form reflects the overall state of their relationship.

Furthermore, both poems use metaphors which imply that the fire of the romance has dwindled out. In “Neutral Tones”, the metaphor used is “They had fallen from an ash and were grey.” Although in this metaphor the “ash” is used as a tree, Hardy has purposely used the double meaning to convey how the fire or passion of the relationship has burnt out. The adjective “grey” also has connotations of lack of heat which would further describe that the passion has burnt out. Also, In line three the poet mentions ‘starving sod’. The alliteration and personification emphasises this impression of unhappiness and suffering as the lifeless ground reflects their dying relationship. Although the ‘neutral’ tone of the poem is never broken, it’s clear that the narrator feels strong emotions about that day by the pond – he uses language associated with pain, death and punishment, which shows that he’s hurt by what happened and the setting of the ‘’pond’’ on a ‘’winter day’’ is established immediately. This creates a powerful image of a cold, desolate scene. In the Lord Byron poem, a metaphor is also used to describe how a certain passion is absent: “Pale grew thy cheek and cold; colder thy kiss...” This metaphor is describing how the female’s body temperature is metaphorically cooling down and in turn describing how the fire of the romance has burnt out. The harsh ‘k’ sounds used in the metaphor emphasises coldness which links with unhappiness as the sight of his lover’s ‘’pale’’ cheek which shows how he has lost love and is hurt by it and the woman is described as becoming ‘cold’ and emotionless, all warmth they may have shared is now dying which highlights the poet’s pain and unhappiness. Likewise, the poem has a bleak, pessimistic mood throughout. This is created by the colourless, lifeless setting and by the narrator’s attitude.



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