I heard an extract of this poem on Radio 4 recently, and was struck. Wow.
It’s not that it resonated with any application or relevance to my own life (well, not presently) … I just admired the power of Hardy’s use of language to convey his melancholy.

Here’s Sarah Cookson reading it from a 1992 BBC Poetry Please broadcast:


Neutral Tones

By Thomas Hardy

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
– They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
  On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
  Like an ominous bird a-wing….

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
  And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

– P

chidden — as in chided