Alfred R. Ferguson writes “Perhaps no single poem more fully embodies the
ambiguous balance between paradisiac good and the paradoxically more fruitful human
good than “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, a poem in which the metaphors of Eden and the
Fall cohere with the idea of felix culpa.” (Ferguson) Felix Culpa is a Latin phrase
derived from the latin word “felix”, meaning happy, or blessed, and “culpa” meaning
fault, or fall. In literary context, this term is generally used to describe how a series of
misfortunate events may eventually lead to a positive outcome. The subject of felix
culpa in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” appears to be the cycle of life, which Robert Frost
represents through poetic imagery of nature’s endless transitory cycle from
season to season.
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” embraces the progression and growth that comes with
the first green leaf of spring, while also accepting the leaf’s fated edenic fall in all of it’s
earthly dying beauty. With each change of season comes a shift in nature’s growth,
“But in each case an emotional loss is involved in the changed conditions” (Ferguson)
Frost establishes a perception of nature’s rhythm from growth to decay as a fall, while
paradoxically attesting to nature’s metamorphosis to death as nothing more than an
apparent fall because of it’s ties with implications of loss in value or emotional wealth.
However, nature’s seasonal transitions are more so a shift in value, than a fall in value.
“Thus by the very movement and order of the poem, we are induced to accept each
change as a shift to good rather than as a decrease in value.. the sense of a fall which
is actually a part of an inherent order of nature” (Ferguson) The fact that life and death
share an identical evanescence and an equal significance in the duality of nature is the
major theme of Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”.
The paradoxical quality of Frost’s metaphors in the opening lines of the poem
conflict purposefully to develop a parallel comparison between the cycle of the seasons
and the acts contained within the myth of Eden. “Nature’s first green is gold, Her
hardest hue to hold. Her early leafs a flower; But only so an hour.” (Frost) While the
color green bears an assurance to the flourish of new life that comes with the spring, it’s
color is described in this poem as having a hue of gold. The idea that nature’s first
green is gold and hard to hold establishes a temporary quality to the blessing of new
growth. Just as the precious metal of gold is as delicate and as evanescent as wealth
itself, the golden hue of nature’s “first green” takes on these same temporary qualities
through Frost’s paradoxical comparisons.
Robert Frost’s second comparison emphasizes nature’s first leaf as a flower. The
fact that Frost establishes the paradox of leaf being a flower as short-lived, or “only so
an hour” (Frost), appears to parallel with the paradox of green being gold before shifting
back to it’s true color. Like the predictable clockwork of nature, the poem’s paradoxes
subside as the “apparent gold hue shifts to green; and the apparent flower subsides into
leaf.” (Ferguson) The shift in value between these two characteristics of nature upholds
Frost’s thematic analogies aimed towards showcasing a part of the natural process by
which the cycle of life is completed. While continuing a sense of diminution through the
poem to adhere to the common negative perceptions on death by virtue of the stressed,
opposing analogies in “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, Frost encourages a deeper underlying
principle aimed towards accepting each natural shift in value as a necessary, and
inherent order of nature to continue the cycle of life. “The fall of the leaves is connected
to the Fall of Man, when eden sank to grief, just as the dawn inevitably goes down to...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document