This mid-19th-century poem is written with fairly simple language and syntax. Many readers, regardless of their background, are going to be able to understand the themes of the heart of this poem – the main one being greed.
Gold! Thomas Hood Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! Bright and yellow, hard and cold Molten, graven, hammered and rolled, Heavy to get and light to hold, Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold, Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled, Spurned by young, but hung by old To the verge of a church yard mold; Price of many a crime untold. Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! Good or bad a thousand fold! How widely it agencies vary, To save - to ruin - to curse - to bless - As even its minted coins express : Now stamped with the image of Queen Bess, And now of a bloody Mary.
‘Gold!’ by Thomas Hood is a short poem that focuses on humanity’s capacity to dedicate their lives to greed.
Throughout the sixteen lines of this poem, the speaker outlines the nature of gold. He describes how it is melted, hammered, and sculpted. It can consume a person’s mind, making them focus on nothing else besides the pursuit of greater wealth. It can, in some cases, be a blessing to those in financial need. But at the same time, it can corrupt and ruin someone’s life.
Structure and Form
‘Gold!’ by Thomas Hood is a sixteen-line poem. Throughout, Hood uses a rhyme scheme of AAAAA for the first eleven lines. He ends the lines with words that end with gold. This includes “doled,” “sold,” and “old.” After the eleventh line, the poem rhymes CBBBC.
The poet also makes use of iambic tetrameter in this piece. This means that each line is made up of four sets of two beats. The first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed. But, it does not remain consistent throughout the piece. For example, in line one, the poet uses only stressed beats.
Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three as well as lines seven and eight.
- Caesura: can be seen when the poet inserts a pause into the middle of a line. This can be accomplished through the use of punctuation or through a natural pause in a line. For example: “Spurned by young, but hung by old.”
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. These should trigger the reader’s senses. For example, “Molten, graven, hammered and rolled, / Heavy to get and light to hold.”
- Repetition: can be seen when the poet repeats a specific element of the poem. This could be a word, phrase, image, technique, or more. In this case, the poem begins with the repetition of the word “Gold!” Four times. This occurs again in the middle of the poem as well.
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple lines. For example, “Gold” repeated four times in the first line and “bartered, bought” in line five.
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled,
Heavy to get and light to hold,
Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled,
Spurned by young, but hung by old
To the verge of a church yard mold;
In the first lines of this poem, the poet makes clear that he is going to be talking about the substance of gold. He describes it, making sure readers remember how “bright and yellow” and “hard and cold” the substance is. It has a great deal of potential in its form. For example, the way that it can be molded as it is also hammered and rolled.
Gold is “hoarded, bartered, bought and sold.” Through this line and the next, this speaker is seeking to emphasize the way that gold can influence human beings. It makes people squander their money, steal, and hoard. It does not, the speaker is suggesting, bring out the best in humanity.
Price of many a crime untold.
Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Good or bad a thousand fold!
How widely it agencies vary,
To save – to ruin – to curse – to bless –
As even its minted coins express :
Now stamped with the image of Queen Bess,
And now of a bloody Mary.
In the next lines, the speaker suggests that gold is the “price of many crime untold.” Broadly, this speaker is suggesting that greed is at the heart of many foul deeds. The repetition of the word “gold” in line ten further emphasizes the way that it can get into a person’s mind and change them. It can make their life entirely about profit.
When someone receives the money, it can “save” them, meaning it can save someone financially. Or it could be a curse. In the final two lines, the speaker alludes to two images that one might find on a gold coin. Those of “Queen Bess,” or Queen Elizabeth I of England. The second is “a bloody Mary.” By referring to Mary I of England by the derogatory name “bloody Mary,” the speaker is once more using juxtaposition to reveal to duel nature of gold.
The purpose of the poem is to emphasize the duality of wealth. While in some cases, gold has the capacity to save someone and be interpreted as a blessing, in other cases, it could be a curse that turns a person’s life from one filled with good deeds to one corrupted by greed.
The tone is determined. The speaker is 100% committed to his belief in the corrupting power of gold. He does not hesitate in his assertions that gold can ruin and curse. But, at the same time, he is also willing to admit that it can save.
The speaker is unknown. The poem could be written from the perspective of the poet himself, but the speaker’s identity is not needed in order to understand the purpose of the poem.
The poem is about humanity’s greed. When gold is on the horizon, many people will be incapable of focusing on anything else besides the pursuit of wealth.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also consider reading some other Thomas Hood poems. For example:
- ‘Silence’ – describes the ways in which silence exists in the world and the places that one may find it.
- ‘A Lake and a Fairy Boat’ – describes growing from a child, with an active imagination, to an adult with a more reality-based way of thinking.
- ‘I Remember, I Remember’ – is dedicated to the nostalgic embrace of the memory of childhood.