Monday 23 May 2016

Correcting Robert Frost's nature notes

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.

This is one of Frost's loveliest, most perfect and most memorable poems - once of those that spring into the mind unbidden, especially in spring.

And late spring has been especially lovely around here - the bluebells in particular are better than I can remember, and the unfolding of leaves on the trees since the beginning of May has been greatly enhanced by the backdrop of blue skies.

This is when we can see for ourselves what Frost brought to general attention: that nature's first green is indeed gold - first in the neighbour's beeches, then later the lime and oak which we have in our garden.

But we can also see that they are gold for considerably more than 'an hour' - the leaves are distinctly golden against the blue sky for at least a week after they emerge (and counting, I've just been outside to check...) which is about 100 times longer than stated by the poet!

But of course 'hour' was needed for the rhyme, and symbolically-speaking the point is truthfully made: in mortal life 'nothing gold can stay' - nor, indeed, anything green.

If I lived to a Biblical span, I would have about a dozen more springs to experience - which is, on the one hand, an extraordinary abundance of beauty; and, on the other hand, also means that each season from now is special, one of a small set, to be treasured (but, I hope, not clung-onto).

Note: An allegorical un-packing of this poem is at:

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