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"Nothing Gold Can Stay" is hard to describe in a nutshell, because, well, it's somewhat of a nutshell in itself. It demonstrates one of the main reasons why its writer, Robert Frost, was able to create so many enduring poems: he had a knack for summing up the whole world in a few elegant little lines.
Frost, one of America's (if not the world's) most beloved poets, wrote some very successful long poems, like "Home Burial" and "Mending Wall." But he's most famous for the poems "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," which are only a few lines longer than "Nothing Gold Can Stay." And it's his shortest works, poems like "Nothing Gold Can Stay," and "Fire and Ice"—eight and nine lines long, respectively—that prove that big things can indeed come in small packages.
Short enough that it's easy to memorize, and hard to forget to begin with, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" covers everything from a tiny leaf, to the cycle of the sun, to the Garden of Eden, in only eight lines. In other words, this poem is expansive, so be careful not to make early conclusions from the title.
Instead of being all about the benjamins, this poem is more about gold as a symbol of youth and beauty. And like the gold of King Midas, the gold in these verses—the joy of youth and beauty—can never last. Bummer, right?
If you've ever seen the golden buds of a willow tree in early spring, or woken up before dawn to watch the hues of a sunrise, or even fallen in and out of love, you know that nothing gold can stay.
Puppies become dogs, kids become adults, and the rosy glow of newness is beautiful, but, unfortunately, fleeting. This is something we've all encountered in life, whether it's as insignificant as your just-bought car no longer smelling so new, or as important as the waning of your adolescence.
This poem takes these moments of our lives and puts them into a short, fleeting poem that's pure gold through and through. Throw in a little bit about the rising sun and the Garden of Eden, and you've got a poem that addresses the transience of beauty in not only a spring day, but in the whole world.
Literary Criticism of "Nothing Gold Can Stay"
Work that tweed when you read these scholarly viewpoints of the poem.
Frost Is A Poet…
And boy, did he know it. It turns out he started writing poems all the way back in high school. Get the scoop in this brief bio on Poets.org.
Get Your Farm On
If you're in the neighborhood, you might want to check out Robert Frost's farm in Derry, New Hampshire, where he and his family lived from 1900-1911.
"Nothing Gold Can Stay" in The Outsiders
The character Ponyboy from the movie The Outsiders recites the Frost poem against a beautiful, gold sky.
Here's the man, reading your new favorite poem, all dramatic-like.
Even famous poets like cake.
We bet those leaves will be falling any minute. So much for gold.
Frost's complete collected poems, if you just can't get enough.
You could buy the book "Nothing Gold Can Stay" first appeared in, but it's expensive and pretty hard to find. Don't say we didn't warn you. And let us know if you snag yourself a copy.
Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World
This awesome documentary on the life of Frost should answer all of your burning questions.