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Lesson Plan

What is Lost in Translation: Poetry and Paraphrase

Lesson Objective

  1. For students to be able to write a paraphrase of a poem
  2. For students to be able to explain what is "lost in translation" from the poem to the paraphrase
  3. For students to understand poetry as an unique form of written expression

How to Use this Lesson Plan

Have students paraphrase "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and then identify and analyze all of the poetic devices listed in this lesson. Use this lesson plan as an "answer sheet" to correct or redirect discussion.


A paraphrase is a restatement of a poem in prose that retains the meaning of the poem while changing the word choice and form of the 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.

- Robert Frost (1923)

Example paraphrase of Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay"

In early springtime, gold flowers form on branches before the shoots of leaves take over the branches of a tree. These tiny gold flowers do not last long (because of the leaves that eventually form on the branches). Even the leaves eventually decay as all things seem to do: Eden, leaves, and a day. Beauty is short-lived and needs to be appreciated while it lasts.

What is lost in translation? What does the poem have that the paraphrase does not?

  • Rhyme (sound)
  • Meter (sound)
  • Imagery
  • Alliteration (sound)
  • Economical phrasing
  • Figurative language: paradox

Rhyme Scheme: aabbccdd

A closed couplet is two lines of rhymed verse in which the meaning is made complete by the end of the second rhyme.

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

Analysis of rhyme scheme: The "singsongy" rhyme belies the somber message that nothing lasts forever.


Meter is the formal measure of the natural rhythm of language as it falls into regular patterns of stress.

iambic trimeter: unstressed stressed rhythm with three stresses per line.


"So dawn goes down to day."

Analysis of iambic trimeter: The short three-beat rhythm to the lines create a limerick sound in this poem. But as always in the poetry of Robert Frost, what seems simple and upbeat has a darker tone and message. The poem confirms that nothing lasts forever and laments the world's acceptance of loss. The simple, quick meter, as in the rhyme scheme, masks this dark message.


Imagery is the representation of sensory experience through language.

"early leaf's a flower"
"Dawn goes down to day"

Analysis of imagery: The visual image of a tiny gold flower peeking out before the first signs of a leaf take over is a harbinger of spring. We easily miss its beauty because it is so small or because it lasts for such a short time. The image of dawn becoming day evokes the sight of early morning rays sifting through pink tinted clouds becoming harsher rays overhead. The loss of delicate light is lamented in the entrance to daytime. Both images give concrete illustrations of the ephemeral nature of the world's beauty.


This is the repetition of consonant sounds in the beginning of words to achieve a harsh or pleasing sound quality to the line or stanza.

"green is gold"
"her hardest hue to hold"
"dawn goes down to day"

Analysis of alliteration: The alliteration of the "g" sound in "green" and "gold" link these two words through sound. Not only does the poem assert that the first green is gold in meaning but it does so also in sound by echoing the sound of green with gold. Also, the alliteration of the "d" sound in "dawn," "down," and "day" makes these words stand out to the reader's ear. The emphasis in sound and in meaning is that the light of dawn goes down or is lost to the harsh light of day.

Economical Phrasing

This poem expresses complex ideas in a succinct manner.

Analysis of economical phrasing: "So Eden sank to grief" means flowers' buds blooming in the spring before leaves have formed on the trees are ephemeral like Eden in all its splendor before Adam and Eve broke God's commandment, Eden fell from paradise, and everyone grieved. The short phrase says all this in a pithy, curt way that is more memorable and effective.


Paradox is a statement containing seemingly contradictory or incompatible elements.

Analysis of paradox: "Nature's first green is gold" How can green be gold? "Her early leaf's a flower" How can a leaf be a flower? Well, both statements are true. Nature's first sign of life is a gold flower in spring and not green leaves. And a tree's first sign of a leaf is actually a tiny flower. What seemed incongruous turns out to be true.


With a rhyme scheme, iambic trimeter, illustrative imagery, alliteration, economical phrasing, and paradox, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" becomes a memorable poem for its deceiving simplicity and rich poetic composition. The poetic devices are "lost in translation" in the paraphrase and so is the poem itself.

Student Assignment

Have students create a poem in either the Drag and Drop mode or Freestyle mode on Then have them paraphrase their own poem. Then have them list all of the poetic devices "lost in translation" in their paraphrase.