“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost, from THE POETRY OF ROBERT FROST: THE COLLECTED POEMS, COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2002.
I first came across Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” two-and-a half years ago, nestled in a copy of S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. To this day, I have every word of the poem memorized. It is a quick poem that says so much in so little. It combines powerful figurative language and a deeper meaning, crafts beautiful imagery, and creates a fluid sound pattern.
First, anyone who likes the outdoors and outdoor writing will enjoy “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Every line of the poem relates to some sort of item in nature: Frost touches on the Garden of Eden, the sky, and the earth.
With the second line (“Her hardest hue to hold”), Frost also personifies nature as someone struggling to hold onto her prettiest hues in her early hours. Though there are a number of possible readings for this line, it is easily comparable to children in their innocent years: an individual is guiltless and pure early on, which is the “gold” of life, yet innocence is something that stays “only so an hour.”
After all, as Frost points out, everything ends. Eventually, a golden flower must join the other flowers on the ground, when “dawn goes down to day.” While it is sad that every good thing can’t last forever, Frost uses dawn and day instead of day and night to show that there are hopes for the future. He still manages to make the poem optimistic.
Through minimal words, Frost still forms a beautiful scene. His imagery, though confined to just eight lines and forty words, allows any reader to see spring. I imagined a sunshine-yellow daffodil (“Nature’s first green is gold”) bloom, then wilt. I imagined a violet twilight turn into blackness, ending the dawn. Each word in the poem has a purpose and together forms a visual that any reader can see.
What I love the most about this poem is its number of powerful words. Additionally, the couplet rhyming scheme and similar syllable count in each line give the poem a watery flow. The words and sounds form a cohesive work, instead of a choppy, peppery, scattered slew of letters.
When I first read the poem, I never imagined it would have such an effect on me. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” is a golden piece that any reader would enjoy as it appeals to a wide audience through a gorgeous combination of descriptive words, a layer that is deeper than just a picture, and its concise but nice phonetic pattern. And for all these reasons, I think this poem can stay.