Is it Tuesday? Every Tuesday a new poem appears in the box and on the blog.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Poem 11 Robert Frost

This week we have a guest curator--Tom Bailey, my dad and recently retired (after 40+ years) English professor.  Enjoy!

Tom writes:

In this little poem by Robert Frost, he seems to be trying to see how many great big ideas he can cram into a very small space.  From its counter-intuitive title [if gold can’t stay, what can?], through its surprising use of small words [of the forty words in the poem, only 20% have two syllables, and none have over that], its insistent trimester beat [three beats per line], it surprises…and will continue to surprise the reader each time she returns to the simple but profound text. 

Note the absolute scientific, even photographic realism: spring in New England is, in point of fact, golden: the maple and aspen trees bloom early, and when the sun strikes these blooms, the trees themselves, the entire woods are golden.  And the hue changes quickly to a different green, as though against nature’s will.  In only an hour, things will change.  As all things do…and not necessarily for the better.

Note how three words about falling predominate in the poem’s structure.  “Leaf subsides,” Eden “sank,” and “dawn goes down.”  Poetry, Frost famously said, “is a momentary stay against confusion.”  So with this poem: things change, subside, sink, so look and enjoy while you can.  The world is extraordinarily beautiful, but beauty, like everything else, is transitory.  Why? Because nothing gold can stay.  Unless, of course, you capture such beauty in language. It’s Shakespearean, isn’t it? as in the couplet which ends Sonnet 18: “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,/ So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”  Even if it’s a poem about change…another counter-intuitive.

       Nothing Gold Can Stay

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.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

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