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Robert Frost's Nothing Gold Can Stay: Poem Meaning & Analysis Video

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  • 0:00 Meaning of ~'Nothing…
  • 1:45 Analysis
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson will explore the meaning of Robert Frost's well-known 1923 poem 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' We will analyze some of the poem's themes and explore Frost's use of literary devices.

Meaning of 'Nothing Gold Can Stay'

Even though 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' by Robert Frost is only eight lines long and seems simple, several readings of the poem can help unearth its deeper meaning. Here is the full text of the poem for your reference:

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.

In this poem, Frost explains that nothing, especially that which is perfect and beautiful, can last forever. He gives several examples of this:

  • The first green of spring is her hardest hue to hold
  • So Eden sank to grief
  • and So dawn goes down to day

These are all different ways of saying the same thing: nothing good can last.

Frost uses nature as the main symbol for his theme because the cycle of life and death shown through the four seasons provides imagery that many people can identify with; and in this poem, nature symbolizes the idea that all the good and beautiful things in life will eventually fade away. One of the most important messages to take from this poem is that once you recognize how fleeting and precious certain moments are, you will appreciate them even more.

On the surface, it seems that the theme of this poem is a bleak one. Spring flowers will die, children will grow up and lose their innocence, and all people will eventually die, too. This may seem depressing, but there is a silver (or gold) lining to be found in this poem. Frost uses examples of things that are cyclical:

  • Spring flowers may die, but they will bloom again next year.
  • Children may grow up and die, but their children will live on.

Analysis

This short poem contains a lot of figurative language and literary devices. Understanding how these devices are used can help you deepen your understanding of the poem and interpret the theme in multiple ways.

One of the first things you might notice after the initial read of this poem is that it is very short, with a strong rhythm and rhyme pattern. The ends of the lines rhyme in a pattern of four rhyming couplets, or pairs of rhyming lines. The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDD with the last line a repetition of the title.

You might find, reading the poem out loud, that the rhythm makes it sound sing-songy, similar to a nursery rhyme. The contrast between the simple, almost child-like structure of the poem, and the deep, reflective tone is an example of a juxtaposition, when two different objects or concepts are placed next to each other in order to emphasize their contrast.

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