After Apple-Picking, by Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.5
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass10
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,15
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.20
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
 
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound25
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,30
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap35
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his40
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Rhyme: abbaccdedfefghhhgijigkjlklmnnmoopqrpqststr

After Apple Picking

Everybody knows the feeling of satisfaction and sleepiness after a long dayís work. This is how the speaker in Robert Frostís poem "After Apple Picking" is feeling now. He is exhausted because he has worked so long and so hard. Frost talks about one day in life. This one day represents the whole life of the speaker. The sleep which ends the day, also represents the end of his life.

"Final sleep" is certainly one interpretation of the "long sleep" that the poet contrasts with human sleep. The sleep of the woodchuck is the sleep of winter, and winter, seen in a metaphoric way, is often strongly associated with death. Hints of winter There are a number of hints that this poem takes place during the winter season: The scent of apples is "the essence of winter sleep"; the water in the trough froze into a "pane of glass"; the grass is "hoary" from the cold of the winter. Yet is the forthcoming death destructive or creative? The harvest of apples can be read as a harvest of any human effort--study, laying bricks, writing poetry, etc.--and this poem looks at the end of the harvest.

The order and tenses of the poem are a bit confusing and make it difficult to distinguish between reality and what is dreamed, which also makes it hard to figure out where the sleep begins. It's reasonable that the speaker should be tired at the end of a day's apple picking. However the poem talks about the speaker being well on his way to sleep before he drops the sheet of ice, and this most likely occurs in the morning. The speaker tries but fails to "rub the strangeness from [his] sight". Is this a strangeness caused by exhaustion or does it indicate the fact that he is already dreaming? Has he, in fact, been dreaming since he looked through the piece of ice, which is described as a "pane of glass", and entered a dream world of "magnified apples" and the "rumbling sound / Of load on load of apples coming in"? Or is the sheet of ice simply a lens that makes the apple-picker dizzy and dreamy from the moment he looks through it? If, in fact, the speaker was about to sleep in the morning the meaning of the sleep "coming on" at the end of the poem, becomes a more important part of the poem.

How one ultimately interprets the tone of the poem has much to do with how one interprets the result of the harvest. Several lines indicate that his harvest is probably a failure or incomplete. The speaker mentions: "a barrel that I didn't fill." Also his ladder is also still leaning against the tree as if would be going to continue picking apples. But he seems too exhausted from his work to carry on because he says: "Iím drowsing off." On the other hand, the poet speaks only of "two or three apples" remaining, and these only "may" be left over. Does he feel satisfaction, then? The speaker has done all that is within his power; what is left is the result of minor; it is the human imperfection that canít be avoided. Then, this poem can be interpreted to be about the rare skill of knowing when to quit honorably.

Yet if the speaker maintains his honor, why will he be disturbed while he is sleeping? There were countless or as it is written in the poem: "ten thousand thousand" of fruit to touch, and none could be fumbled or it was lost. The speaker may have fumbled many and he left more than he claims he did. Or are the troubled dreams a nightmare magnification and not a reflection of the real harvest?
For this question it is probably best to look at the lines 28-29: "I am overtired / Of the great harvest I myself desired." If there has been failure or too great a strain on the speaker, it is because the speaker has desired too great a harvest. He saw an impossible quantity of fruit as a possibility. Or he saw an incredible quantity of apples as a possibility and nearly achieved it at the cost of physical and mental exhaustion.

 

Mira Ganslmeier - English - 2nd Period - 01/09/05



 


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