Robert Frost on Forever

An Essay By Aisling // 1/23/2007

“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.” (Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay)

The first time I read Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, it irked me. I didn’t like it. I more than didn’t like it; I hated it. It touched that stubborn, resilient, optimistic strain in me. What right had he to write a poem so hopeless, so heartless, so utterly desolate? So definite. There is a tragedy there, in that sad slow acceptance of an irrevocable end.
And I revolted. It isn’t true! You can’t live like that.

“Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?” (Robert Frost, Reluctance)

I took the Christmas tree down a few days ago. Mom had already gotten almost all the ornaments off and I started unwinding the lights. It was an involuntary, mechanical thing. White lights on green, around and around my arm, around and around the tree. I was knocking half-dead needles off, squeezing between the branches and the wall. And slowly I was realizing…another end.
There is a tragedy to the taking down of a tree.

This past weekend I was Lucy Pevensie for a highschool production of C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. We had been preparing for almost half a year, once—sometimes twice—a week. It’s a huge thing, being somebody else for a night. Two nights. It seeps into your heart, and becomes a part of you. Close, familiar, beloved. While it’s happening…all those weeks of practicing…you take it for granted. And then it’s opening night, and you’re soaring. And the second performance goes even better, and you’re living in a dream…of roses and carnations, bright lights and a warmth in your face…the thrill of feeling the audience connect and respond, knowing that something is going right…the way your eyes meet the actor’s beside you, and the excitement masked behind your eyes thrills at theirs, and that togetherness is greater than your fondest dreams.

And then it’s gone.

You take your last bow, and you leave the stage. You go out to greet the people in the audience, and it’s slipping behind you. Somewhere in the back of your mind you feel it…it’s slipping behind you. And there at the heart of the glory of what was just accomplished, is a bittersweet drop… The end.

And Monday morning I had to put away all the props, the costumes, the makeup (I didn’t mind that so much)…away the fun of being Lucy Pevensie for a day…away the fun of having Edmund for a brother. Away the magic of a land called Narnia, and an ocean of uncharted excitements stretching out to meet the very end of the world.
And there it is again. The tragedy. There is a tragedy to the sad slow acceptance of an end. Like, inside, your heart is crying…

Dawn goes down to day… Nothing gold can stay.

Maybe it’s true. And that’s where the tragedy comes in. Tragic the end. Tragic because it is an end. Tragic the loss of that glory—fallen, fallen down away beyond your reach. Tragic the forsaking; and it leaves you alone, alone with a memory.
And we live on—clinging, desperate, to our memories. And dawn goes down to day.
But the tragedy is telling a story to your heart. Of your heart.

Something in you was made to live. Something in you is forever young. Forever green. Forever dawning. Made to withstand the ending of a thing, of anything.
Something in you is unfulfilled, unnatural. A stranger. A sojourner. Not at home.
And over and over again your heart is betrayed by the fading of a leaf, the dying of a flower, the dawn that falls yet another time to day. The gold that cannot stay. Treason! Treason to drift, to bow, to yield. Treason to accept the tragedy of yet another end, as if this is the way it was meant to be.

But no. No. Somewhere inside, you know. Something in you was made for forever.
Somehow, someday, even this world of endings will come to an end. And dawn will go down to a day that is unending. Unending. And, in a way, the most beautiful thing about it will be just that—that it has no end.
And at last that something in you will be at home. No more the tragedy of letting go, of betraying your heart, of slaying that part of you that is innately opposed to mortality.

You have come into your own. And here there can be no doubt that this is what you were made for. Forever.

Eternity in gold,
A hue she’ll always hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
For one unending hour.
Here morn subsides to morn.
So Eden is reborn,
So dawn’s eternal day.
Forever gold will stay.