Robert Frost (1874 – 1963) is an American poet whose poems mostly depicted rural life. He is known for such works as Fire and Ice, The Road Not Taken, Acquainted with the Night, and others. Frost has received more than 40 honorary degrees, including four Pulitzer Prizes. During his life, he made an attempt to live in the countryside and grow poultry, although it was not quite successful. However, rural motives and images of nature are the cornerstone of his poetry. Despite the simple imagery, some deep philosophical motives are hidden in Frost’s poems. For example, the poet addresses such themes as the end of the world (in Fire and Ice) and difficulty to make choices in life (The Road Not Taken). The poem Nothing Gold Can Stay is also an example of interference of the images of nature and philosophy. Frost develops the theme of transience and transition using metaphor and paradox.
First of all, the author uses an extended metaphor, comparing all the things with young spring leaves that grow and then die. Death is an intrinsic element of life of every creature. Everything comes to an end: using two parallel constructions, Frost depicts beautiful images of young leaves and then shows their fragility and transience. The first part of this parallel construction can be seen in lines 1 and 2: “Nature’s first green is gold, // Her hardest hue to hold.” The second part is in lines 3 and 4: “Her early leaf’s a flower; // But only so an hour.” Thus, through the image of leaves quickly transforming into some other thing, Robert Frost shows that everything has its end and that everything changes.
Metaphor is also used in the last line of the poem, which is at the same time its heading: “Nothing gold can stay.” Here, Frost makes a sad conclusion: many things that last only for a short time are precious, such as health, youth, early spring, picturesque dawn, and so on. All these valuable things shall change their form and turn into something else: a flower would turn into a leaf, a young person would grow old, the dawn sun would make a circle, and the night would come. All these things are so precious because they cannot last forever, and one should catch the moment and enjoy them, but remember that they would pass someday.
The second literary device that the author uses to address this topic is a paradox. It can be met in the first line: “Nature’s first green is gold” and in the third line: “Her early leaf’s a flower.” The author depicts the shortest and the most beautiful period in spring when there are no leaves on the trees, but only catkins (which are yellow, like gold) and flowers. Using the image of color gold, the author not only describes the actual color of the catkins that appear before leaves, but also the value of youth and all the things that are doomed to change and to die. Thus, this is the same theme of transience that goes throughout the whole poem.
Overall, paradox and metaphor are the key literary devices in Nothing Gold Can Stay that help convey the idea of mortality and transience. Probably, the poem also implies that the everlasting beauty used to be in Eden (“So Eden sank to grief” (line), whereas on Earth, all the things come to their end. Therefore, the main point of the poem is that in this earthly life, we are mortal, as we have lost access to Eden, and we should cherish the short moments of beauty that life gives us.
Frost, Robert. Nothing Gold Can Stay. 1923. Poetry Foundation. Web.