Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost

We're looking at the idea that "a poem should begin in delight and end in wisdom", and trying to apply that to Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Start by deciding if you think it begins in delight. Does it delight you, or do you think that the poet is delighted by what he is describing? Either will do. I think both are true; I find the poem delightful, and I believe Frost is delighted by the word picture he is painting. The evidence I would use in writing about it is as follows:

  • "Gold" is a word which suggests high value and preciousness. People take delight in gold. As well as this, gold is visually attractive. In both these ways, it suggests delight in the new birth of nature which is described using the metaphor "Nature's first green is gold"
  • "Her first bud's a flower" is another metaphor, suggesting the fragile beauty of the first leaf. I get the sense that the poet is delighted by this image, as am I.

In both of these respects, the poem begins in delight.

OK, so does it end in wisdom? What is the message of the poem, and is it a true message?

The phrase "Nothing gold can stay" means nothing good lasts for ever, all good things come to an end.

This does seem to me to be true, though some would argue. Either way, you still have to analyse it.

  • The sense of things ending begins in the 2nd line with "Her hardest hue to hold", the alliterative H sounds of which suggest to me a kind of breathless transience (lack of permanence).
  • This idea continues with "But only so an hour."
  • The last quatrain (4 lines) heaps on more of this language of loss and negativity;

    "Leaf subsides to leaf", "Eden sank to grief", "Dawn goes down to day" All of these phrases, especially the emboldened words, enhance the feeling of decline which is the message of the poem, which itself follows this pattern; it moves from the delightful affirmation of "Nature's first green is gold" through in only 8 lines to "Nothing gold can stay."

  • The image of Eden is an important one; biblically, Eden was the garden created by God for Adam and Eve, but they sinned and were thrown out. The point is that if even God's perfection can fail, what hope is there for the rest of the world?

So, is this evidence of wisdom and truth, or is it Frost being miserable and maudlin? You decide.

Now, take these notes and put them into your own words, in essay form.