Throughout the history, The theme of love has been one of the eternal topics that most poets eulogize, while death is the inevitable phenomenon that can control everything. When love and death encounter, tragedy occurs. There are diverse forms of depicting love tragedy in western poems. Neutral Tone, A Hymn to God the Father and Virtue are all touching poems of describing this violent passions. What is love? It is the natural emotion of most human, with the development of regeneration and multiplication of humankind, the hymns of which emerge in endlessly. It is the ignorance of awakening interest towards another human being, the disappointment of missing the one you would like to remember to the end of your life, the sadness of departing from the spouse forever. And what is death? It is a kind of power that can wipe out everything, including love and sin. The enthusiasm, desire, and romance are included in the attractive part of love, which is also mentioned in the three poems.
Furthermore, complicated emotions to death, or the death of a relationship, are also incorporated in these poems. Thomas Hardy, the author of the poem Neutral Tone, addresses the narrator’s lover that is no longer affectionate to him, and he recollects about a foreseen moment in their past, which anticipated the death of their relationship. There is a depressing picture presenting in Neutral Tone that this heartbroken unwise man can imagine his lover’s face through the miserable regret from the depth of his heart, which is caused by the pain of losing true love forever. For instance, the white sun of the second line provides the definite implication of the neutrality in a visual way. Hardy used remarkably emotive yet exaggerated language to describe the sun. According to Richard Trench, the imagery of sun might be viewed as an object of worship to God or the superior being, or “as a type of brightness or clearness” (1882).
Therefore, as a symbol we commonly seen in general literature, sunshine is more widely speculated as golden, purporting radiance, comfort, warmth and the thriving of life. However, Hardy portrayed the sun that has been decolorized of all color, as all of its vitality has been drained. The imagery of “White” may be employed to that which is truly neutral. According to Trench, it means “colorless, uncolored, as glass or other transparent substance.” (1882) Therefore, the white sun is neutral in the literal sense, assembling the poem’s title, and its life-giving properties have been metaphorically removed and rejected by the God— “.
as though chidden of God” (Hardy)—, which, is also an “explicit reference to divine interference.” (Senior) In the Neutral Tone, the affection between the man and his former partner is dead or dying, and the “white sun” mentioned before is a symbolization of their fading passion. Love is supposingly the combination of all the ethical values the poets glorifying with. Accordingly, the passing of love can be associated with death, which is why the author keeps describing imageries that used to be beautiful in a neutralized manner, such as the sun, the leave, and the smile from the narrator’s beloved person; these things turn into “white sun”, “grayish leaves”, and “deadlist smile.
“(Hardy) The Neutral Tone is a somber and melancholy poem that portrays the death of love as mentally anguishing and doomed. While the Neutral Tone connects love to the loss of vitality, George Herbert’s Virtue has the distinct theme of mortality which shows that everything that has an actual form could not last eternally. However, Herbert does hold the most truthful respect for nature, which, shows that every natural thing maintains a genuinely amazing quality of beauty. And the theme of the supremacy of death over many things that exist.
“Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright.”(Herbert). In this lie, Hervert used a series of adjectives to personifies the day as “sweet,” “cool,” “calm” and “bright.” He also gives us a metaphor of a wedding party between a man and a woman. (Knight) However, personally speaking, I consider The bridal of the earth and skies symbolized the humankind and the God itself.
Herbert presents an idea that the earth, with all its beauty, shall pass away. Nevertheless, he promotes virtue without denying the beauty of the passing world. Only a worthy soul shall live eternally. Therefore, the last stanzas of the poem present images of a noble spirit live forever.
The eyes and words in Neutral Tone, the passionate feeling of begging for forgiveness in A Hymn to God the Father, as well as the rose and spring in Virtue, all express the intense emotions. However, love cannot be full of pure blessedness all the time, just like death is not only ruthless phenomenon. The sincere concern of distant lovers and poignant mourning of losing devotion due to death drive poets relieved.
All of the above can create chances for poets to voice their opinions of love and death, which is, therefore, the eternal topic of literature. Thomas Hardy, John Donne, and George Herbert are all English poets with the outstanding reputation, whose works all reveal the temporal, social condition and their true personal emotions. The universal theme of these three poems is to worship love and death.