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.
I think I've shared this poem before, but the end of summer is a good time to visit it again, with perhaps a bit more attention to sound and detail, following Stephen Fry's advice in The Ode Less Travelled. So--reading it aloud, here are a few things I notice, one from each line:
- In the first line, the emphasis falls on green and gold
- All the h's in the second line
- Lots of fairly broad e/ea sounds in third line
- The vowel sounds then contract, which fits with the meaning of the fourth line
- "Then leaf subsides to leaf" has baffled me for a while, but on this closer reread I think the first leaf is flower references in the second line, while the second leaf is just a plain old leaf--so it's talking about that period of transition when a flowering tree sheds its blossoms and the leaves come out and it looks just like any other tree
- No comment for this line, really--it's pretty straightforward, though one I quite like
- The iambs place the focus on "dawn", "down", and "day"; they also make the line sound like a downward staircase
- Unlike the previous seven lines, this one has only five syllables, lending it a feeling of finality