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
This poem breaks my heart. I thought of it today because the first forsythia shrubs are in bloom, and I’ve seen some daffodils and crocuses making their way out of the earth. Nothing gold can stay.
My husband is from New England, Robert Frost’s birthplace, and studied Frost’s poems in school. This poem has always been his favorite, and he has it memorized. But even though the lines grab a hold of me, a part of me wants to rebel against the meaning. It’s the same part of me that rebels against my husband’s more realistic view of life. And realistic really isn’t the word. I don’t want to say pessimistic or negative either. But his world view is less hopeful than mine.
Maybe that’s because I quit my teaching job and he’s still slugging it out in corporate America every day. That battle can take the wind out of anyone’s sails. But what gives me hope is not the idea that the gold really can stay. I know the forsythias will lose their buttery petals. The daffodils will brown.
The reason I accept the dying of the things around me has to do with the nature of my inner life. Like most people, I have days when taking the dog out yet again seems like an insurmountable chore, when I ask myself if I can bear to fold one more load of laundry. And it gets worse. Even if nothing bad has happened I’ll start imagining possible tragedies, like my husband having a car accident driving home on the highway in the rain. I’ll work myself into a frenzy of fear.
But that’s where my hope lies. If nothing gold can stay, nothing shriveled and wretched stays either. The dying of the gold gives us hope that our garbage may one day flower. Of course this acceptance is a daily one. Each day I find my edge, and try to balance there.