Thursday, February 18, 2010

Robert Frost, "Nothing Gold Can Stay:" But Golden Inspiration is Eternal

Last week, I came across a book of Robert Frost poetry called Seasons. What is unique about this beautiful book is that Frost's poems are grouped according to the seasons and powerfully illustrated by exceptional photographs. For example, here is a Spring 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.

And here is the illustrative photograph.

This photograph provides a perfect context for understanding the meaning of the poem.

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.

When you look at a tree, say, a Maple, during the day in late summer, the leaves are all totally green. However, on a clear day, the leaves, catching the early-morning light, are bright gold. But that hue won't last, as the sun moves on.

Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.

That early, golden leaf, briefly, looks like a flower.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,

Just as the golden sun moves on and gold leaves return to green, so was man tempted by the serpent to give up his golden innocence by eating of the apple of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, thereby causing his grief and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

So he drove out the man;
and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims,
and a flaming sword which turned every way,
to keep the way of the tree of life.

Genesis. 3:24

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

The analogy is tight: dawn and day, gold and green, innocence and grief.

At first, after reading the poem this time, I ask myself what is there about this poem that makes it last, that makes it valuable. After all, it is a grim reminder of the human condition; nothing in time and space will last, and by immersing ourselves in the illusion of time and space, we have expelled ourselves from eternity.

Then it occurred to me:

This poem, itself, is gold because it is an expression of Thoughts that come from out of time, that come from a part of our mind, the timeless Thoughts of God.

The poem lasts because it stems from the Tree of Life. The poet's inspiration, an artist's inspiration, comes from the awareness of God's Thoughts. "Inspire" comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning "to breathe in;" we breathe in the breath of God, spirit, the Holy Spirit, God's Voice, the Bridge between time and eternity.

It is quite possible to listen to God's Voice all through the day without interrupting your regular activities in any way. The part of your mind in which truth abides is in constant communication with God, whether you are aware of it or not. W-p1.49.1:1,2

There is not a moment in which His Voice fails to direct my thoughts, guide my actions and lead my feet. I am walking steadily towards truth. W-p1.60.(49).2:3,4

All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of inner stillness. The mind then gives form to the creative impulse or insight.

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, (Namaste, 1999), p. 24

It is the human condition to be in the world, to be in time, to have thoughts of good and evil, without an awareness of a reference point out of time, the stillness of God, the peace of God. Adam and Eve walked out of Eden, paradise, eternity into time, and we are doing the same thing.

You have elected to be in time rather than eternity, and therefore believe you are in time. Yet your election is both free and alterable. You do not belong in time. Your place is only in eternity (Eden), where God Himself placed you forever.

It is possible to be in the world, and not of the world, and although Frost did not use this terminology, he had an out of the world awareness that enabled him to tap into inspiriting thoughts. (OK, I meant to type "inspiring," but I typed "inspiriting," and I can't help but leave it. To be inspired means to breathe in the Voice of the Holy Spirit.) For this experience, Frost uses the word "delight," and I like to focus on the light in the word.

Here is Jesus:

When I said "I am come as a light into the world," I meant that I came to share the light with you. T-5.VI. 11:1

Frost expresses this in an essay entitled, The Figure a Poem Makes, his Introduction to his Collected Poetry.

A poem begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life. For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn't know I knew. I am in a place, in a situation, as if I had materialized from cloud or risen out of the ground.

I like to think that Frost is describing here what it feels like to be transported to a state of mind receptive to inspiration.

There is a glad recognition of the long lost and the rest follows. Step by step the wonder of unexpected supply keeps growing. The impressions most useful to my purpose seem always those I was unaware of. It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations.

That which is eternal is being revealed in his heightened awareness.

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

Touched by God, the golden innocence is always fresh and new.

Days come and God, and the gold of inspiration is eternal. (OK, I am going to leave it like that; I meant to type "go," but I am delighted to see that "God" is most appropriate.)

Only gold can stay.