I was teaching away and as often happens, I needed to quickly pull up something on the computer to make a point, or give an example of something for the edification of my students. I needed to project Robert Frost’s “Nature’s First Green is Gold.” I just typed the first few words into to search bar and hit enter.
I immediately notices the images that the search brought up.
I couldn’t believe what I saw!
Compare that travesty to this:
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
When he wrote it, Robert Frost composed a poem. He didn’t write a paragraph. And if he were to write a paragraph, you can be sure he wouldn’t have justified, both right and left.
You don’t get poetry?
Well, this re-presenting of Frost’s original, is analogous to any of the following: (you choose)
- Putting the front of a Volkswagon Bug on a Rolls-Royce
- Mixing a can on Sprite with a glass of Espetacle del Montsant 2017 because it’s not sweet enough
- Ordering Lobster with a side of Kraft Dinner
- Listening to your Aunt Edna doing Kareoke–Bonnie Tyler’s “Turn Around” (with your High School PE teacher doing the second voice)
- Adding a cheesy chorus to Amazing Grace–with a mixed metaphor to boot
Suffice it to say that everything in a poem contributes to its meaning. In this violent restructuring of the poem, the rhyme is lost. The correspondence of the alliteration in lines 2 and lines 7 is lost, as is the correlation between “Nature” and “Nothing”–the first words of the first and last lines. Not to mention the first words of each line (“Nature’s . . . Her . . . Her . . . But . . . So . . . Then . . . So . . . So . . . Nothing”).
And what’s the deal with the background picture? Grand mountainous cliffs that have grass on them!? That might be a poem, but it ain’t this poem! Sure it’s green. Big deal. It’s the green of the second leaf in line 5. This poem is about the “first green,” a green so fleeting it needed a profound poem to hint at its beauty and significance and value and fragility. You can’t capture that by slapping a green mountain on the background. If a picture was possible, Frost wouldn’t have needed to write the poem!
As Bugs Bunny would say: “What a maroon.”
And you shouldn’t do this to Bible verses either!