Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost is one of the most confusing poems by him in terms of its meaning. Many have been fooled by the subject of the poem.
One cursory glance at the poem and people are bound to think that the poet is talking about Spring and how beautifully green the world becomes, but only for a moment.
However, that is not the case. The poem is not about greenery or trees, albeit it uses them to create the necessary imagery. So what is the poem about?
Let’s take a look at the poem first and then at the simplified version of it to make understanding the poem quicker. Then we’ll look at a deeper and more detailed analysis of the poem.
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost
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.
Nature’s first beauty comes in golden color This golden color is the hardest color for it to hold The leaf turns into a flower in the early moments of the morning But only for an hour or so Then the light is gone, and the leaf turns green As the heavens have been lost As the morning turns into a day Nothing can stay fresh and beautiful always.
Meaning and Analysis
So after you read the simplified version of the poem, you realize that Frost is not talking about the leaves or flowers or the season, but he is talking about that golden hour in the morning.
During the early moments when the sun rises above the horizon with a golden red hue and it shines its soft, golden light on the beautifully dew-laden leaves and flowers.
But do not assume the golden sunrise to be the subject of the poem. Frost’s poems have always been much deeper than what they talk about, and that’s the case here as well.
Frost uses this beautiful and familiar example to reveal something deeper, something more abstract and universal. He talks about the nature of things and the ephemeral “shine” of it.
The morning sun shines its golden light on the leaves and makes all the leaves look golden. But this moment only lasts for around an hour. After that, everything goes back to normal. There is nothing special left.
Similarly, in life, and in everything else, things are only good or appealing or “beautiful” only for some time. After that, everything starts becoming dull.
Be it a new car that you bought, or a very expensive suit. Everything will lose its appeal and shine after some time.
But the universal appeal of Frost’s message does not end with inanimate objects like cars or clothes, it also applies to humans too.
Even meeting new people, building relations, etc all lose their initial spark after some time. This just goes to show that nothing gold can stay.
Now that we understand the core meaning of the poem, let us take a look at the deeper analysis of the poem and find out what Frost meant with every single line of the poem.
We’ll divide the poem into two parts of four lines so that it becomes easy to dissect and inspect the poem. Let’s start with the first part.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only for an hour.
The first stanza uses nature as the canvas to paint the message of the poem. Frost uses an example that every one of us can understand and relate to.
“Nature’s first green is gold” means that the first light that nature shines in the morning is a golden light making every plant look golden.
It is also the hardest hue to hold as this golden light does not last much longer. It is ephemeral. In the early moments of the dawn, even the leaf looks like a golden flower. But it lasts only for about an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
The second stanza holds proof that Frost is talking about the morning sunshine and not about nature. The line “Then leaf subsides to leaf” is that proof.
Frost says that after the golden sunshine has gone, the “first flower” disintegrates into a leaf, meaning that it gets its green color back.
But then something interesting happens. Frost brings out the main message and meaning of the poem by giving two more examples.
Frost brings the example of Eden, the heaven that was lost to humans. He says that just like the leaves lose their golden color, the heavens also sank to sorrow.
And so the dawn goes to become day, losing all its charm and beauty. Finally, he ends the poem by saying “nothing gold can stay,” which delivers the meaning of the poem.
The Essence of the Poem
The last stanza of the poem makes the message very clear. Beauty is something that does not last forever, no matter what it is. Be it the heavens or the leaves on a tree, everything will lose its golden shine.
That is the nature of things. Nothing gold can stay the same without losing its shine. No matter how great the shine is, it is ephemeral, and short-lived. The golden morning shall decay into the hard light, and finally into the night.