With the silent pauses of the monosyllables, Frost manages to say a remarkable lot through the compressed cadence of this unusually short poem. The smoothness of a lyric, the simplicity of a rhyme and a delicacy if highest order, the poem “nothing gold can stay” stands out because of the brevity in the message implied. Sired with several connotations and numerous contemplations Frost isn’t concerned with the direct passage of the meaning. It is a minefield of arguments, cryptic derivations and surface level meanings. Heavily end stopped and finalizing in its tone, it has a haunting and a captivating charm that is at once sonorous as well as ominous.
Laced with layers of underlying messages, Frost delighted himself in making his lines as inscrutable as possible; all the while making sure not to waiver off too much from the confines of verse and meter. The innate charm of a Frost lies in the deciphering this messages underneath. The unnervingly simple start of the poem says “nature’s first green is gold”, an undemanding statement and an untroubled demeanour, this is one of the most debated over opening line of a poem. Frost probably intends to say that nature’s first green is invaluable in nature. The preciousness and the merit attached to the first sign of green in the season is often considered a good charm, a good omen and a symbolic gesture of goodwill. The first sign of the spring and the fodder of many a poetic lines, the ready comparison with gold is easily understandable. The mention of the gold can also be taken in a commercial context, much distant to the Frost and the nature imagery that Frost is contemplating on, possibly an hint to the commercial pinnacle of human world where suggests a tryst with the success.
Taking in the other direction of thought, the golden color might be a literal indication to the cavernous observation of Frost. The baby leaves, the pale shaded green leaves have a subtle hint of a golden tinge when it reflects the rays of sunlight in the afternoon light. The magnificent glaze of the early leaves in the aura of the sunbeams might just be what Frost refers to. The alliterative symmetry of green and gold makes the whole pausing effect even more sonorous in its entirety. The first line successfully lays ground for the lines to come and is quite a start for a poem.
In the light of the idealistic beauty and the prime worth painted in the first line, the second line brings in the uncertainty and the doubt, when it comes to ideals. The golden tinge garners awe and a worthiness that is revered, but the way of the world and a tone worthy of being comparable to Keatsian ideology, Frost reminds in a grave tone of the fickleness of such a state. The state even in its prime and in top of its glory is susceptible to the rigours of time. The leaves in this case start to darken in their shades, changing their appearance to a darker and much more chaotic hue of green that submerges the early colours totally, thus essentially becoming the lost promise of the ideal “that was”. The leaves become the symbol of brevity and the baggage that the dizzying heights of ideals carry.
“Her early leaf’s a flower;But only so an hour.”
The necessity of letting go is emphasized upon again and the transience of things is the rhyme and rhythm of the next few lines. A conventional poetic statement and sentiment the seemingly simple and noticeably single syllable words reflects the transparent idea hidden underneath. The repetition of “leaf” echoes the multiple meanings that a leaf can commutate. The leaf in the direct meaning of the poem is evidently the single unit of leaves of tree, the leaves of paper or leafing out , the turning over and the choosing out; but mostly it is a warning, a subtle reminder of the passage of time, and time “leafing out” the ideals as we know it. “Then leaf subsides to leaf” is a further cementing of the idea that ideals are in the end to be subsided and the refrain of the word leaf almost seems like a chant- the implicit loss, the unfathomable doom.
The allegorical end to the poem brings in a lot more contemplation on the reader’s part. A new take on the history of the mankind as we perceive it, he takes the biblical context of Eden and the fall of eve where he says:
“So Eden sank to grief,So dawn goes down today.”
The idealism and the virtue attached with the Eden comes down to a bitter fall with the disregarding of the rules by Eve, a simple Biblical allusion goes into a much deeper idea of loss of innocence and irrevocable destiny that can’t be averted. The insinuating thought of the shining dawn decorating the skyline too is brought to closure with the sunset. As beautiful as sunrise is, the sunset is irrevocable and a irreplaceable part of it. The undeniable beauty of the sunrise is a gift that is only truly cherished with the acceptance of the dusk, the setting of the sun- the loss. The true acceptance of the darkness is what brings in the light.
Overall the poem brings in the refurbishing of the classic idea that anything golden, anything that is precious is bound to be tarnished by loss. That is the true acceptance and welcoming of the best of elements and parts within us.