Comment 347 of 720, added on January 26th, 2011 at 4:33 PM.
Explication and Analysis
Frost observes a dawn and writes about the experience. That is what poets
do. Write what they know or experience. "Nature's first" is the morning’s
early and special light. It has the astonishing effect of turning the first
green leaf it touches gold. Look out at dawn and see.
Almost immediately though he is thinking about the end of marvelous event
with "Her hardest hue to hold." The dawn and it’s, uh, Her chromatic magic
is only temporary. Understand that this is not some deep seated commentary
on transitory nature but instead the inability of the poet to focus and
enjoy fully what is before him. His mind uncontrollably jumps forward to
the end. It is quite humorous.
There are two positive and six negative lines in the poem. Each positive
line, the first and third, are coupled with a negative. The negatives take
two forms. The first is preoccupation with the end of the dawn’s special
light and wonderful effects and the second, expressing and proving his
value system negatively. How does her prove the value of something
negatively? One method is to show that if one object of two is proved
incredibly bad, it somehow raises the other to the highest level of good.
Is this poetic license? I don't think so but it is funny as hell.
The last positive line is "Her early leaf's a flower;". The leaf is
magically turned shimmering gold by the dawn's early light. With a tinge of
imagination, it is now an enchanting flower. This positive line is, of
course, coupled with a negative of the first form with "But only so an
hour." Again he reminds us of the end. The marvel of the dawn and it early,
transformational light does indeed last one hour. Is that what we or he
should be thinking about though?
No, we are not allowed to enjoy the incredible and enchanting effects of
the early light. We, instead, are carried again to the end where he says it
will be very bad (and that's why we are going). He tells us "Then leaf
subsides to leaf," When the special light of the dawn ends the leaf will
again look like a leaf. It is curious, however, that he uses the word
"subsides". It is negative and denotes a recess or reduction of something
of a higher value to something of lesser value. A flower ranks much higher
than a leaf in his value system.
Are we convinced? No. He feels the need to prove to us and to reaffirm to
himself that his value judgment is correct by showing us how very
despicable the leave is. By desecrating the lowly leaf he thinks it somehow
raises the value of the flower. He proceeds to tells us "So Eden sank to
grief," (because of the terrible leaf.) It was the the leaf and not else
that got them cast out of Paradise. How despicable the leaf therefore how
very wonderful the flower. He is so very funny.
So the end has arrived and is no longer merely anticipated. "So dawn goes
down to day." The dawn has now become day and the wonderful effects have
ended. But, the first sun rises to day not "goes down"! How very odd.
Again, in his value system, the dawn ranks much higher than the regular
day. In his system, "going down" from high ranking "dawn" finds low ranking
"day". This also connotes the dawn is "dead" and has gone down as if into a
grave. In both meanings it is readily apparent that he thought very highly
of the dawn, its special light and transformational effects. He most
definitely did not want it to end as none of us want anything so very
wonderful to end.
He tried to tell how very wonderful the effects were and feels a great
sense of loss at its end but the emotional impact is even more than any of
us could have guessed. He chimes "Nothing gold can stay." This is totally a
neurotic and very funny reaction. It is a generalization to everything gold
not lasting because the gold of the magical dawn didn’t. It’s
inappropriately fatalistic as there are gold coins, nuggets, bullion and a
never ending dawn that moves from place-to-place around the Earth with each
hour. Very many gold things will be around much longer than any of us.
Woody Allen, beware.
Frank P Mora
from United States