The poem "Neutral Tones" by Thomas Hardy was written in 1867 and published in the 1898 collection Wessex Poems and Other Verses. It contains the stanza:

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….

Which figure of speech does the phrase "alive enough to have strength to die" contain?


2 Answers 2


It's a paradox. As the linked Literary Devices page says:

When used as a literary device, a paradox is the juxtaposition of a set of seemingly contradictory concepts that reveal a hidden and/or unexpected truth. The paradox may be hard or even impossible to believe, yet usually the contradiction can be reconciled if the reader thinks about the juxtaposition more deeply.


Antithesis. I'm not sure if any other can be included.

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