Analysis: Form and Meter
Rhyming Couplets of Iambic Trimeter
We don't know about you, but the first thing Shmoop noticed about "Nothing Gold Can Stay" were those rhyming couplets. They practically leap off the page. We hear "hold" and "gold," then "flower" and "hour," then "leaf" and "grief," and finally, "day" and "stay." The rhyme scheme (AABBCCDD) glues this little poem together, making it fun to read aloud and pleasing to the listener's ear. It feels like a pithy little maxim, a proverb for the ages, something to memorize and teach the kiddos one day.
Inside these couplets, the poem is written in iambic trimeter. An iamb is a metrical foot that consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, as in daDUM or "then leaf" or "so dawn." Trimeter means there are three iambs in every line.
Check out line 2:
Her hardest hue to hold
Even though every line in the poem isn't perfectly iambic, there are three stressed beats in each line. This creates a flowing but concise rhythm that makes it easy to recite and memorize the poem, which we at Shmoop highly recommend.
And the moments where Frost does deviate from the meter are equally rewarding. For example, the first and last lines start with a trochee, which is the opposite of an iamb—DAdum. That creates a sonic connection between "Nature" and "Nothing," which is pretty stinkin' fascinating if you read that onto the poem. What might that mean for Frost's argument?