Famous Poems About Beauty

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.

Summary and Analysis
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Summary

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” is about the fleeting nature of beauty, youth, and life itself. According to the poem, nothing “gold”—essentially nothing pure, precious, or beautiful—can last forever. The poem begins by focusing on changes in the natural world. The “first green” leaves of spring are compared to gold, nature’s most prized metal, immediately establishing gold as symbolic of everything that is fresh, youthful, and beautiful. Yet this “hue” is also the “hardest” for nature, personified in the poem as a female figure, “to hold.” Nature is trying to stop the freshness of early spring from fading, perhaps like a mother who wishes her children would stay young forever. This is impossible, and readers know that the first buds of spring will mature and, eventually, fall. The speaker then speeds the natural cycle up to hammer home this point, saying that the first blossom of spring lasts “only … an hour.” This is an exaggeration of course, but it emphasizes just how fleeting this fresh, lovely stage of life is. The precious beauty and innocence of youth, the poem is saying, flashes by in the blink of an eye. The speaker then broadens the poem’s scope to include Eden, the biblical paradise from which human beings were expelled according to the Book of Genesis. Eden was a land free from sin and suffering that infamously and inevitably ended, the speaker says, just as the promise of the new morning (“dawn”) must give way to the reality of the day. In each of these examples, something beautiful and innocent—untainted by the world—proves fleeting, unable to endure. In the second half of the poem the speaker also notably starts using language related to sinking or descending to describe the path of everything that is at one time young and beautiful. This suggests that the inability of anything “gold” to last is because life itself is a corrupting force that drags such beauty down. Thus, Eden didn’t simply end; it “sank to grief.” This implies that it began on a high—but, like leaves and flowers that flutter to the ground from tree tops, couldn’t stay in such a vaulted place, protected from earthly realities. Similarly, “dawn goes down to day.”

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