Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.


-Robert Frost (1923)


The poem I have chosen for this particular analysis was “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, written by Robert Frost. This poem attracted me for many reasons, not least of them being the intriguing title of the poem itself. The melancholy tone of the poem was fascinating, and after reading it for my third time or so, I began to see more of the implied meaning that I did the first time around. In this paper, I will be examining the poem on a line to line basis, giving my own interpretation of each, and also show how Robert Frost used a few key elements to poetry in this particular poem. I will show that the overall theme of this poem is a sense of fleeting beauty, only to be replaced by sadness and despair, due to the fall of Eden (in religious context).

In the first line of the poem, it says, “Nature’s first green is gold,”. This would imply an innate beauty of spring, of bloom, of life. It denotes a purity, which gold is often an archetype for. Think of the hills in this valley, and how beautiful they look when they are green. They shine like polished emeralds. Note also the alliteration of the words “green” and “gold”. They both sound soft and pleasant. In the second line, it points out that it is “Her hardest hue to hold.” Already, we are getting a sense of something not quite aright. This would mean that this golden hue is difficult to maintain. Note too, the personification of nature as a female, subtly hinted in this metaphor. The next line reads “Her early leaf’s a flower;” Again, we are presented with a sense of beauty in the first bloom, the early stages of life. We all know how delicate and beautiful a flower is, now, imagine every leaf on a tree being as magnificent as one of those flowers. Truly an astounding sight. So far in the poem, you are getting a mostly positive view of nature, minus the second line.

It is in the third to the last lines where nature begins to take its fall. Notice the fourth line, which reads “But only so an hour.” This is in reference to the early leaf being like a flower, so, it only lasts for a short time. This is in reference to the brief time any beauty lasts, whether in nature due to seasons, or in life due to age. Later in the poem, the reason for this is alluded to. The next line reads “Then leaf subsides to leaf.” No longer is a leaf rivaling the beauty of a flower, no, it is merely a leaf. Nothing special for being just itself. Lackluster would be the best word to describe this. Imagine winter, when nature’s foliage often does seem quite lackluster, and do we not feel the same at times in our older years? The next line is what really holds the poem up, and drives the point home. It reads “So Eden sank to grief,”, referring to the fall of the Garden of Eden, where the first man and woman were created by God. Frost alludes to this, assuming that most people reading it will understand just what he means. Most Christians would. In this line, Frost isn’t just saying that Eden fell, but it “sank to grief”, which is implying something far worse than just a loss, which it was. It meant the loss of perfection for all creation. The results of this loss of perfection is summed up in the last two lines, which read, “So dawn goes down to day. / Nothing gold can stay.” This gives a sense of irretrievable loss. Dawn going down to day, could imply the fall of perfection, the loss of life, the inexorable movement towards death, not just for humans, but all creation. And finally, we have the finality of it all in the last line, in which it is stated that “Nothing gold can stay.” This statement alone is something I find incredibly profound. It implies that nothing beautiful, young, or pure, can ever last. It will always fade. It’s a final statement, an ultimate fact. There is no exception.

Robert Frost was a very masterful poet. As you can see, in just eight lines, he was able to convey so much to the reader. His biggest asset is being able to prod the reader’s mind to conjure up the images he creates with his words. The imagery is amazing. That last line, “Nothing gold can stay.”, truly strikes a chord with me. I see an image of a quaint village clothed in gold, slowly fading and corroding. And then, there is nothing but dust. Not even a trace of gold. A very sobering image indeed. Stunning imagery combined with excellent word choice makes this a very thought provoking poem. Every single line contains vivid images that float through your mind, whether they be of beauty or of age and decay. Another key element used in his poem, one that should not be missed, is the use of an allusion, referring to Eden. This is of course the Garden of Eden that he is talking about. This could be referred to as a mythological mention, another element used in the poem. One would be expected to know the story behind it, and understand the meaning.

After examining and analyzing the poem, I find that it further grows on me. What at first seemed merely a poem with melancholy tone, has now transformed into a poem describing all of life, and the world around us, very subtly. All of this is done in a very short eight lines. The conciseness of it all astounds me. In short, I would like to simply state that this is a very well executed and written poem, and I would recommend it to any true fan of poetry.

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