Text of the Poem

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 solved 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.


  1. Hardy uses alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds, in line fourteen. By repeating the w and r sound in the words “wrings,” “with,” and “wrong,” the speaker emphasizes the anguish caused by his estranged lover.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The repetition of the conjunction “and” in lines fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen is an example of polysyndeton, a device in which a conjunction such as “and,” “or,” or “but” is repeated in rapid succession. Here, polysyndeton is deployed to express emotional intensity by overwhelming readers with images relating to the speaker’s painful experience of heartbreak.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Line thirteen features sibilance, or the repetition of words containing s sounds. When read aloud, the words “since,” “lessons,” and “deceives” generate a repetitive effect that arguably mimics the speaker’s repetitive ruminations over the past. The climactic moment of heartbreak has arrived, bringing with it “lessons that love deceives” and reflecting the speaker’s attitude toward the ended romance.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Hardy uses a simile, or a comparison between two things using the word “like” or “as,” in his description of the lover’s smile. The simile foreshadows the presumed separation of the couple by depicting the lover’s smile as an “ominous bird a-wing.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. The adjective “tedious” means to be tiresome, dull, or slow. The speaker suggests that the relationship may have ended in part because of former arguments—or “tedious riddles”—that his lover could not forgive or move beyond, hence the “eyes that rove.” Hardy may also imply that the lover grew bored with the monotonous nature of the relationship and wished to wander beyond it.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. The verb “to rove” means to wander or travel without a destination, and the speaker depicts his former lover as having eyes that constantly move. Since the speaker’s thoughts continue after “rove,” this is an example of enjambment, or a thought or phrase that begins in one line and continues into the next line. In a sense, this provides readers with two interpretations: eyes that wander open-endedly and eyes that scrutinize “tedious riddles of years ago.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The noun “sod” refers to untilled land, usually with grass growing on it. Hardy develops the setting by depicting the land around the pond as “starving,” having completed the seasonal cycle of life and death. Further, the dreariness of the landscape introduces a dismal tone that reflects the speaker’s attitude as he reflects on a scene from a past relationship that occurred in that location.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Hardy inserts a light caesura in the second line of the poem and uses it again later to great extent in the final stanza. A caesura is a break in a line of verse, usually in the form of punctuation such as a comma, period, em dash (—), or ellipses (...). Here, interrupting the speaker’s description of the scene with a comma establishes rhythm and draws attention to the whiteness of the sun.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The word “chidden” is the past tense of the verb “to chide,” which means to scold or criticize. The speaker portrays the sun as white, rather than warm, yellow, or bold, as if God’s scolding had deprived or drained it of its vitality.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor