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.

–          Robert Frost

Driving to work this morning, as the sun was just beginning to stretch its arms, and yawn, I was struck by the tender green leaves sprouting everywhere. Just like Frost’s poem, they were more gold than green in the dawn light. Like most people of my generation, whenever I hear that poem I think of the book, The Outsiders. Can there be anything more romantic than teenage coming of age stories? Nothing quite captures the heroic/tragic, self pity of youth the way that book did. Say what you want about it, but S.E. Hinton really nailed that feeling when she wrote it. It was required reading for NDHS, and probably just about every other high school in the 80’s. Heck, they even made a movie out of it filled with brooding, good looking young actors just in case your High School English teacher was lazy, and preferred showing movies in class so he could sleep off his hangover in the back of the room.

Of course, S.E. Hinton didn’t invent heroic/tragic teenage self pity. It’s been around at least as long as Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. I mean really, what sulky, teenage wallflower didn’t imagine himself as Mercutio, taking that sword thrust through the heart? Didn’t we take a metaphorical sword through the heart on a daily, if not hourly basis?

College was no better. I sulked, and pouted my way through the entire canon of English and American Literature, and came away believing that life was all about lost Eden. Now whenever April rolls around I can’t help but think of old T.S. (Terribly Sexy) Elliot, and The Waste Land.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain…

What is the Waste Land, but a more snooty, high fallutin version of Frost’s poem? No, all Elliott is telling us is “Kid, you think you got it bad now, just wait until you’re older. Then life really kicks you in the nuts.”

Well kids, don’t believe it. I know that this might not sound real convincing, but life is a long series of crucifixions, and resurrections. Pity the character, like Mercutio, who dies in the first act. They miss out on all the fun, because like spring, life is an endless cycle of pain and suffering, followed by joy and ecstasy. Rinse and repeat.

The beauty of it is that each new spin on its Merry Go Round reveals new truths. Growing up may mean growing old, but it’s still growth. Better to keep breeding those Lilacs out of the dead land, than become their fertilizer.

Stay Gold Ponyboy.


20 thoughts on “Nothing Gold Can Stay

  1. God, your high school reading list was all romantic and whimsical and shit. Why was mine a steady stream of bleak futuristic apocolyptic warnings a la’ Orwell’s 1984, the horrible Animal Farm, Lord of The Flies, Catcher In the Rye (since banned) etc.?????
    I don’t think we cracked ONE book of poetry in all four years. We did hit the worlds most dysfunctional romance novels (Romeo & Juliet and Wuthering Heights) but we stayed mostly with the hopelessness and nightmarish scenarios of the former.

    • We did the “romantic” stuff our Sophomore year. (Outsiders, Romeo & Juliet, A Separate Peace)

      However, during our Junior year we had an English teacher that only taught because he wanted to escape the draft and stay out of ‘Nam. He picked the books by using the list of Top 50 Most Banned Books. (I kid you not.) Say what you want about Catholicism, but we aren’t as Puritanical about drinking, and swearing.

      Our Junior Year reading list… Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Johnny Got His Gun (omfg, the MOST depressing book ever written)

      God I loved those books.

  2. Tommy, don’t forget Fahrenheit 454, All Quiet on the Western Front and To Kill a Mockingbird. What was the name of the Outsiders sequel that they made us read? The Pigman?

    • ah yes… how could I forget those 3. I have to say, Mr. Lennon always picked the classics. He also picked books that had been made into movies, so he could dim the lights for an hour, and nap while we watched TV through the miracle of VCR!!!!

      Good lord, I hated the Pigman. What a depressing book. Not quite Johnny Got His Gun depressing, but damn close.

      Also, the sequel to “The Outsiders” was “That was then, this is now”. Which sadly, wasn’t made into a movie until 1985, (starring Emilio Estevez and Craig Sheffer) so he couldn’t show us the VHS tape of it during class.

      PS – Do it for Johnny.

  3. My high-school literature teacher hated me. I always guessed it was because of my obnoxious giggle and even MORE infuriating positive outlook on life 🙂 I like the way you think: of course life carries with it whole steamin’ piles of crap… but there is good in there always.

    • Obviously you did not attend a Catholic school. The Nuns would have beaten the optimism out of you long before you reached High School.

  4. I love that poem and think of it every time the daffys and tulips break through the mud. Like Frost said, “nothing gold stays.” But paraphrasing Tori, where there are piles of crap there is usually a pony.

  5. THis is like watching that crazy guy on the corner shadowbox his imaginary friend! I don’t even need anyone else to converse.

    • You know, I was going to write a post today, but I think your comments are more entertaining than anything I can come up with. Please, continue…

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