illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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What kind of imagery is used in the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay"?

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Imagery is using the five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste—to describe a scene.

In "Nothing Gold can Stay," Frost uses visual and touch imagery: we can see and feel what he describes. For example, we can see, from line one, that "Nature’s first green is gold." In using "green," Frosts invokes two possible meanings: green is both the color we associate with nature, such as in grass or leaves, and it also means "new." By using a word like green, with concrete visual associations, we can see green grass and foliage. We can see that in dawn's earliest sunlight (or, metaphorically, in Paradise before the Fall) grass and foliage might look golden.

In the second line, Frost uses touch imagery: "Her hardest hue to hold." Frost again draws upon two different meanings. On one level, Frost employs a concrete image: gold is physically hard. Therefore, we can understand with our sense of touch that gold is hard when we feel it. But Frost is also saying that "gold," the highest standard of life, as implied in the term "golden age," is hard (difficult) to maintain.

Other images Frost uses include "flower," "leaf," and "dawn," all things we can visualize.

Sensory images often stick in our memory longer than abstract ideas, so Frost's concretizing of the abstract concept that paradise quickly fades helps us remember this poem.

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Robert Frost's, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" uses imagery to describe different states of nature. He starts out with a metaphor saying, "Nature's first green is gold." As the seasons change from spring to summer the reader is encouraged to see the leaves change from their first color that he describes as gold but that state does not last long before the leaves turn green. Frost continues his use of imagery when he speaks of Eden's grief, the reader feels the sadness associated with the story of the Garden of Eden. In the end, he describes how the earliest rays of sun are golden at dawn changing their hue to the sunshine of the day. He describes it as "dawn goes down to day," when most would speak of sunrise. The reader can see the early golden sun rays tone down to daylight as but he reminds us, "that nothing gold can stay."

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Explain how Robert Frost supports the theme of the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" through his use of imagery.

"Nothing Gold Can Stay," by Robert Frost, is a poem about the illusory nature of life. This theme, that nothing of value ("nothing gold") will last forever, is substantiated through the imagery of the poem.

The title and last line are the same, and the poem can best be read as a metaphor, since none of the images in between represent actual gold. Each of the primary images of this Frost poem are "gold" for a time but eventually fade to nothingness or death. 

The first reference is to the gold found in nature, leaves which are green and gold but eventually (after only a figurative hour or so) they die.

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,

The same is true of the garden of Eden, the shining gold standard of perfection. This biblical allusion refers to the perfect place of God's creation which only stayed perfect for a time, until sin was introduced and death became a reality. 

Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,

The final image is a gold sunrise sinking into a gold sunset as another day fades away (dies). 

So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

Frost's theme is that everything, even the most wonderful things, will eventually fade and die. This is true of so many wonderful things in everyone's life which are here and then gone. This transience is demonstrated by the three images of this poem: leaves, the garden of Eden, and sunrises/sunsets.

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