illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

Robert Frost

Start Free Trial

What does Robert Frost allude to in his poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The essential theme of "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is that the beauty in everything fades as it ages. The initial beauty of a flower is only "so an hour." After that initial flowering, the life of the plant becomes mature, but less beautiful. Frost begins the poem stating "Nature's first green is gold," which sets it up for the remainder of his statement. It's "her hardest hue to hold" onto during life. Perhaps the best image that can help to explain this is in the second to last line: "So dawn goes down to day." At dawn, the sky can be golden and beautiful. It is something to stop and watch. But the dawn only lasts for an hour or so, before everything looks about the same for the rest of the day, until dusk, which again is beautiful, but only lasts for a little while.

As far as allusions go, Frost mentions the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lost their innocence when Eve took a bite of the forbidden apple. As such, Frost lends the sense of a loss of innocence to his poem. Each morning, the dawn loses its innocence to the events of the day and Spring's flowers and leaf buds lose their innocence to the events of the summer.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What profound thoughts about existence can be found in "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost?

Frost's poem is profound in how it shows existence as something that is mutable.  The only permanent element in consciousness is that there is change.  There is something profound in this.  Frost is able to offer a glimpse into this condition of being through a few lines that stick in the mind's eye.  For example, "Her hardest hue to hold" in reference to the opening image of "Nature's first green is to gold."  The idea that beauty, the morning pristine vision, is something that is "hardest to hold" even for the natural world is quite profound.  Frost seeks to bring out in the opening two lines that even nature cannot hold on to that which seems perfectly beautiful.  The most tender and wonderful moments in our being are transitory ones.  The happiness we experience in these instances are "the hardest hue to hold."  We are compelled to see that what nature has to endure, we do too.  Frost's poem does not make the reader entirely sad about being in the world, but rather forces one to accept that we must treasure our happiness, and not take it for granted as it can leave as easy as it arrives.

The subsequent images do much to bring this picture of being into focus.  "Eden" sinking to "grief" is another such image that forces the reader to understand the transitory nature in being in the world.  The idyllic garden is one that is in passing.  Even the creation of the divine, the realm where all is good and right, sinks according to the weight of time.  Frost's poem is a reminder that our lives are lived from the hopeful joyful experience of one instant that passes to another lying in wait. We swing from vine to vine of happiness moment to another moment of joy.  The idea that "nothing gold can stay" reminds us of just as the condition of nature and the creation of the divine, we, too, are bound to only enjoy what we can when we can.  It is not permanent.  Our happiness is elusive as it passes our grasp and Frost's poem is a reminder to revel in it because "nothing gold can stay."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on