It is at this point of subtle recognition that the "Neutral Tones" come into play. Perhaps the most obvious distinction of the poem is its total lack of colour. Like a black and white photograph, the "grayish leaves" and "white" sun yield much the same effect as the references to death and the mention of time gone by: "Since then" (13). They all create distance in time. Drained of its colour, this poem is a memory on the edge of death, the expectation of which is a relief to its owner.
Disrobing, defusing and discharging painful memories is the whole point of the poem. Sometimes we ardently avoid memories because we remember the memories were painful before––not because they are painful now. Hardy demonstrates pain's aging is pleasant, its future is bright. Separated by comforting time, drawn by subtle familiarity and contending with a tempting perspective, the reader is encouraged to explore old wounds. The realization that pain subsides with time is not always an easy one––pain is often easier to ignore than to reflect on.