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“Nothing Gold Can Stay”

By March 15, 2012 No Comments

Cast up on the shores of survival after virtually non-stop teaching since the first week of January, I head off on spring break tomorrow. Going to visit family in California, where the high temps for the next several days are predicted to be in the low 50s, with rain. That, coming off a mid-March (March!) week in West Michigan with several 70-degree days in a row. Global warming? The stereotyped Calvinist deity in charge of the weather? Bait and switch? Whatever, nothing good can come of it. Too much sun, too soon. Fruit trees will bud early and get zapped by frost. My lilac bush next to the garage, too.  

All the more needful, then, to savor this poem by Robert Frost. An English professor of mine, long ago, used to take his students out on the lawn on just the right Spring morning and recite these lines with perfect pace and intonation. Great pedagogy, obviously, if we remember it annually still. The critics label this a felix culpa verse, and I guess I can see that. But to me it’s carpe diem: an injunction fit for busy lives, nowhere more than in the region where I live, at a pace that I don’t keep but that keeps, owns, me.


“Nothing Gold Can Stay”

by Robert Frost (1923)

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.

James Bratt

James Bratt is professor of history emeritus at Calvin College, specializing in American religious history and especially the connections between religion and politics. Starting in Fall 2016 he took a break from blogging on The Twelve to teach in China and on the Semester at Sea, which venues afforded him some welcome distance from the USA’s descent into its current mortal illness. But now he’s back in the States, looking for hope. His most recent book (which he edited and completed for the late John Woolverton) is  “A Christian and a Democrat”: Religion in the Life and Leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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