In various types of literary works, tone is one of the key elements that an author can use to develop their theme. Tone works closely with mood or atmosphere. One example is an upbeat, light-hearted tone, which might correspond to a theme about how a positive attitude aids creativity. In contrast, a serious, somber tone might help the author develop a theme about coping with loss.
A look at two well-known 19th-century poems may be useful in understanding the relationship.
The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth frequently wrote about nature as an inspiring force in his creative process as well as his personal life. One of his poems, often referred to as "Daffodils," has an overall lively tone that is conveyed by his descriptions of the "golden daffodils" that the speaker sees. The poem begins with a wistful or solitary tone, as the author admits to being "lonely." The quick shift in tone that comes with seeing the daffodils is sustained by the descriptions of the flowers's actions: they flutter and dance, they are like "stars that twinkle," and they show great "glee."
The power of nature to uplift the spirits, which is clearly stated, matches this joyful tone.
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company
In contrast, we can look at "The Raven," a poem by the American writer Edgar Allen Poe. The somber tone established at the outset corresponds to the theme of the crushing weight of grief. The speaker describes themself as "weak and weary," and establishes the somber tone through the words such as "dreary" and "bleak." These words are often associated with the setting at "midnight" and in "December." Poe uses words such as "dying ember" and "ghost," and repeats "sorrow" throughout the poem.
The reader soon learns that the speaker is pining for the deceased Lenore. Their deep mourning is consistent with the dark tone, furthered by the "grim" and "lonely" raven that speaks to them.