Last Tuesday was the autumnal equinox, one of two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, and day and night are of equal length. Summer has now given way to Fall, reminding us of Robert Frost’s poem “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.
Frost notices the value in the first signs of spring – they are “gold”. Picture forsythia and daffodils. A flower’s bloom is lovely yet oh, so short, with the green leaves of summer following. How fleeting is childhood, or a puppy’s “puppyhood.” How quickly a newborn becomes a toddler, a tween, a teen, and a playful puppy a lazy, lounging canine.
“So Eden sank to grief,” captures the paradox of our ‘falling upward’ into consciousness. “So dawn goes down to day” evokes another paradox; the sun’s rising pushes the precious and mysterious moments of dawn down and out of the way. The fullness of lives and leaves is wonderful, and so is a cloudless day filled with sunshine. Though the green that replaces the gold is good, we rightly miss what is left behind. The final title line, “Nothing gold can stay,” captures our experience as human beings and the poignancy of having a lifetime. Neither nature around us nor those we love the most, nor we ourselves will stay on this earth forever.
There’s an abundance of insight – and theology – in this short poem. As the days shorten and “summer goes down to fall” (to paraphrase the poet), the leaves somehow know it is time to stop producing chlorophyll. And at the end of their lives the gold – still the hardest hue to hold – returns.
No, nothing gold can stay. But in this season of our lives – a season of elections, political unrest, racial reckoning, and our search for a new normal – fall reminds us that what is golden can return, if briefly. Relish these golden days of autumn and know that greener days will come again.
What kind of season is this for you? What line in Frost’s poem speaks to you in this season? Let us know in the comments below.
–Ann Palmerton and her spouse, Brad Binau, collaborated on this blog
Did you enjoy this blog post? Be sure to leave a comment and share the link with your friends on Facebook!