Nothing Gold Can Stay: Poem Analysis
Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay focuses on beauty’s fleeting nature, evident from the choice of words and use of symbolism. The title appears overly revealing, inferring that nothing is pure, justifying gold to the first green leaves in spring that fade as they grow old. Symbolism appears from the outset, whereby gold represents purity, and just like the early spring buds that grow and fall off, so does gold lose its beauty once it has been used.
The poem alludes to the fleeting nature of beauty, meaning that every good thing comes to an end, reflecting mortality or death. In the opening line, Frost states that; “Nature’s first green is gold” (Frost 1923), and in this imagery, he likens youth or young age to beauty, similar to the most precious metal ever known. In the subsequent line, the poet personifies gold by referring to the metal as ‘her,’ This indicates that he is alluding to life or the living things that are attractive from conception. Still, at some point, they lose their value and eventually die, like spring buds falling off (Yustisiana, 2018). The perceived impression that these first shoots exude renders them pure, similar to gold and some readers; it could be a trick of the sun’s rays, which makes them shine. Youth may be associated with innocence, but this could also be linked to naivety because as people age, they gradually lose their innocence. Mortality awaits them in the long run (Yustisiana, 2018). Ideally, the choice of words and comparison of spring leaves to gold proves that the poet speaks of the fleeting nature of beauty that ends in death.
Powerful Words and Figures of Speech
A metaphor is the first powerful figure of speech that one notices, giving meaning to the poem. Frost compares the first green leaves to gold, denoting their purity. Eden is another powerful word in the poem, alluding to the creation story. This gives the impression that the poem is about mortality because “Eden sinks to grief,” similar to death, which sends people to mourn. The pronoun ‘her’ plays a quintessential role in the poem because it personifies gold with its beautiful hue, confirming that the poet uses nature to speak specific truths about humanity and life (Yustisiana, 2018). Personification is another moving figure of speech, which is only attributed to the gold in the poem. Still, it is interesting to note the use of euphemism, mainly when the poet speaks of Eden sinking to grief, referring to death.
Frost’s poem is imbued with rich alliteration, and this is evident in the second line where the poet speaks of ‘her hardest hue to hold,’ which introduces the kind of rhythm that renders the poem an interesting read. However, it bears a negative connotation (Frost, 1923). Diction gives the poem its unique feel and tone through the choice of words. For instance, the poet speaks of dawn going down rather than simply saying the day ends because, in reality, he is signifying the end of beauty or the end of life (Yustisiana, 2018). Symbolism is also inherent in the poem, and besides gold representing purity, the poet speaks of nature’s first green or early leaves that are more of a flower. Still, these symbolize the beauty and vibrancy of life, especially from the youthful stages. There is the subtle use of metonymy in the poem, whereby the poet substitutes faded beauty with a dawn that has gone down, and this is reinforced in the 8th line where the poet repeats the title of the poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay (Yustisiana, 2018). Meter defines the poem’s beauty, and the structure indicates that Frost deploys an iambic trimeter in all other lines except lines one and eight. The first line has a spondee, “first green,” which slows all the readers down to contemplate life, denoting its transient nature. The last line features a trochee, a metrical foot that stresses the long syllable. “Nothing” is stressed in this last line, reinforcing the main message conveyed by the title.
The poet’s diction renders the poem interesting to read, although it addresses a subject meant to elicit negative emotions. Through carefully choosing words, the poet can bring onboard elements such as metaphors, symbolism, and metonym. Eden’s allusion and the gold symbol work hand in hand with personification to bring out the main message in the poem. It begins with hope, comparing the first leaves of spring to gold with all her complex hue, but perhaps the most noteworthy feature is the rich alliteration which offers the poem its lyrical flow. Alliteration also helps understand the intended message, particularly in the second line, where the poet speaks of gold’s hardest hue to hold.
Yustisiana, A. (2018). Humanity in Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Journal of Modern Literature, 42(01), 122-128.
Frost, R. (1923). Nothing gold can stay—Norton Anthology of American Literature.