#59 “After Apple-Picking” (Robert Frost)

More Frost! I swear that this course and Countdown are not going to turn into “Robert Frost and Friends.” But we have miles to go before we sleep, and somewhere in the very top echelon of modern poems we have to find room for “After Apple-Picking”. Like many of Frost’s poems, it’s a simple story about working in the country. The work itself is simple, and repetitive to the point of monotony. The work is valuable: if you want apples (for your own use or for profit), you have to pick them. But like any work, however valuable, the work becomes so all-consuming that all the worker can see is the reiteration, the arbitrary rules, and the oppressive scale of his achievement.

When I read a poem like this, I’m tempted to find a “extended metaphor” in it: do the apples, and all the operations that the speaker performs on them, somehow stand for something else? Yet I don’t think that’s the case here, or at least, as often with Frost, the “tenor” of the metaphor (what its surface or “vehicle” stands for) is vague. There’s no hidden meaning. Work is work, and all work is somewhat alike, especially when it overwhelms the worker. Yet we keep doing it, and not just for the tangible compensations.

Most beautiful to me in “After Apple-Picking” is the music of the poem. The form is one that I have called “free-rhyming” verse. The lines are of all different lengths. There’s no rhyme scheme in the sense of a predictable pattern. But the poem uses a lot of rhyme, both at the ends of the lines and internally within the lines. It’s a spoken-word concoction that makes use of the natural phrase lengths of English speech.


14 responses to “#59 “After Apple-Picking” (Robert Frost)

  1. In the poem the apple picker has been overworked to the point that all he dreams about is apple picking. After climing up and down the ladder his feet ache. His arches have deformed to the shape of the ladder. He has been doing this for so long that he has perfected his technique. He doesn’t let the apple fall to the floor. He has made it a personal standard or goal to not to let them fall. He doesn’t want them to be worthless cider. He has yet more apple to pick but his body can’t take anymore. In every verse the word apple appears. Letting you know that it is his cross that he must bare. His mentality revolves around apples. This lifely hood comes from that. No matter how hard or how much he picks he won’t ever finish. People in life do the same. They get into a deadend job and go to it every day. They have small glorious moments in which they can feel good about themselves. Most of the time it is showing up and getting along with the day. Clock in thinking of the moment that you can clock out. But yet the paycheck is needed and one must do what he or she must do to obtain it. Thats most people have programed into their heads. Just like the apple picker, thats all he knows to do. He may not like it but it takes care of him.

  2. At first reading this poem I thought it was just about apple picking and wonder why someone would take the time to just write about apple picking. That I found most people talk about something different in order not to talk about what is really the truth. The apple picking is just that the underline truth. How many people go to a job everyday and they can not stand and then bring it home with them to their families and then even dream about it themselves. Or what if it is not a job that he talks about what if it is taking care of someone you know you want to do it but it then it becomes this job and a routine that you can not break you become so broken by the quilt that you are consumed by it that now you dream about it. People become so consumed with routine and doing what is right that they don’t know how to step back from the routine or that way of life.

  3. This poem reminds me of myself when I first started working in the office that I work in. I worked so hard everyday that I began to dream about my work. In this poem the worker is working so hard all his mind is set on is apples. When he gets ready to go to sleep and ease his mind at night he cannot. I think that when people work this hard they do not get a chance to focus on themselves and their family. This poem takes my imagination into the country side, where there are alot of trees and small houses. I think this is a good poem because it describes what is going on in many peoples lives.

  4. I totally understand where the speaker is coming from in this poem, as I have been there myself, as have many others. When I got my first “real job,” I poured my heart and soul into the job. I found myself working long hours, multiple “shifts,” sometimes even working for more than 24 hours at a time, all while going to college full-time. It very quickly got to the point where I was dreaming about my work as well, usually several nights a week. I think it finally dawned on me that I was working too much when I started trying to use my house key to unlock my office door in the morning, and when I started trying to use my office key to unlock the front door of my house at night. Its not that the keys are similarly shaped and easily mixed up, its that I spent so much time at work, and when I was at home, all I did was think about work; there was no separation between work and home for me anymore.

    Sometimes it takes an outside force for us to realize that we really are overworking ourselves, and I think the poem provides a good wake-up call for those of us that work too much.

  5. This poem was very interesting and the discussion that we had in class contributed to that. “After Apple-Picking” was interpreted by many of my peers, as a person who has been working a lot throughout their life to the point that they were overworked. I can see how this was related to the poem because it says how the speaker was picking so many apples that he even dreamed about picking apples. Even though I agree with this interpretation I also got the impression of a totally different subject: life opportunities. The speaker talks about his job which is apple picking and I don’t get the feeling that he loves his job. Then he goes on and tells us about a barrel that he didn’t fill, this could be viewed as all the opportunities that he could have taken but didn’t so now his life is empty, or unfilled. He tells us that at the very end it seems that the apple-picker is just tired of his job and fed up with how his life is going that he lets himself fall asleep and just drowse off. When someone is not feeling well or is not having a very good day, in order to forget about the daily struggles many of us choose to go to sleep for a while and just forget whatever is bothering us. The idea that the poem could also be interpreted as opportunities in life is definitely something totally different, but this is what was going through my mind as the professor was reading the poem.

  6. The first time I read this poem in class, I did not quite understand why Robert Frost wrote all about picking apples. I mean, why would this poem be considered a great poem. Then I realized it wasn’t just about apple-picking, it was about what most people do everyday, work. I often go to bed at night dreaming about my work and then get up the next day and do it all over again. It is the whole repetitive thing. Some people really do not care for their jobs, but yet they still go to work every day and do the best that they are capable of doing. We do it so that we can make a living and provide for ourselves and our families. Even if you are at a job that you hate, you still get up and do the same thing all over again to the best of your abilities, pretty much because you have to. That, in my opinion, is the underlying message that Robert Frost is talking about in this poem.

  7. When we read this poem in class I laughed to myself only because it sounded like something I would write after a long day at my job. I worked as a manager at Tulsa’s Incredible Pizza Monday through Sunday open to close. I rarely got to see family or friends. My meals consisted of ice cream or a quick slice of pizza. Don’t get me wrong it was a great job and I loved kids but it got to the point where I sung the “Happy Birthday” song in my sleep. Or I happened to be in Wal Mart and see a young child running and yell at him to stop. The job became routine and predictable, it was no longer challenging or fun. Although when payday came around it made me realize why I worked so much. However I had to make a decision my sanity or money. Although I had great opportunity at this establishment (going to different states opening up new stores) I had to realize it was my job and not my life. My health was far more important than the job. I really like this poem, I feel it shows the struggle people go through everyday to get up too a job they have lost love for or is beginning to lose love for. I was always told a job is something you have to do and a career is something you love. Lol I still don’t see the difference. Maybe they are right

  8. kursteilnehmer

    I too, like many of those who have commented before me, have had a job that is repetitive and dull. I worked as a Barista and spent countless hours of my life “apple picking.” In the past I have worked 40 hour weeks and gone to school full time for many months. Indeed, I was dreaming of work while I slept. The issue of overwork is very apparent in American society. Many other countries have a siesta interlude or a period of time where the shops are closed in the afternoon for an hour or so. Most other nations have shorter work weeks of 32 or 36 hours of required work. Regardless of how much time you put into working everyone sleeps sometime. In America we have always worked to provide for not only family and food and shelter from the elements, but for other frivolities and necessities that society has duped the public into believing they deserve. Everyone has dreams. Some have bigger dreams than others. Some carry higher expectations. Others are willing to go through life as mediocre, or even below average. There is nothing wrong with which category you may fall in, however it is the attitude in which you undertake the task of life before you that really matters most. This poem could have many philosophical means to it. Though one may attempt to derive meaning from this poem I can only wonder is that a method of “apple picking” as well? An attempt to answer my question may also prove to be a source of “apple picking.” “Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, or just some human sleep.” To me this is a foundation of human nature. Human sleep contains dreams weather we remember them or not. Is a deep slumber the remedy for a hard days work? For work itself is human nature, therefore some internal motivation that comes in slumber propels us through the orchard of life keeps us from insanity? I should think myself mad if I wished to pick “ten thousand thousand fruit to touch.” Or perhaps, there is some pleasure derived from keeping the gate keys to ephemeral worldly treasure as simple as an apple. When all is said and done, one may attempt to draw out some hidden meaning from this poem, but I agree with the Professor in this matter. This poem is about overwork. The apple tree is the means of work, and the worker is in fact tired of this tedious work.

  9. The poem “After Apple- Picking” by Robert Frost is about the poet collecting as much apples everyday from morning until evening which leaves him very exhausted. The poet is picking apples so much that he even dreams about it. While he is collecting apples in his dream he realizes there are still many apples remaining to be collected, which emphasizes how Frost still has many desires, ambitions and hopes to be fulfilled. Also, Frost is trying to say that his way of looking around the world has changed vastly when he observes the melting ice. When I read “After Apple-Picking” I was reminded by the poet about a life-span of an individual; how someone like the poet might work daily picking apples while his other life goals are not being achieved. Life can melt away like ice but even though the poet acknowledges this he is too tired from work and all he wants to do is get some sleep. However, his work is still important and it is what he chose to do to make a living. Therefore, everyday life continues and wins over fantasy life.

  10. What I like most about Robert Frost is the way that he expresses his view. While reading the poem I get the tired over-worked sense the farmer has. I can clearly see him standing in the grass watching the ice melt not really thinking at all but more of a trance. Robert Frost uses his words to give you a clear visual of being in an apple orchard staring at the trees with big red apples on them, and being at the top of the ladder looking down at a half full barrel. This poem gives the feeling that though the farmer is tired and overworked this is a labor of love for him. The trees and apples are his heart and soul during the picking season. As the poem comes to an end I cannot help but also feel overworked and over tired. I tend to want to make the farmer take a sleep aid and go to bed. This is how deeply Robert Frost can make a person feel when reading his work.

  11. It could be that “After Apple-Picking” has no hidden meaning! Maybe the author is just writing a simple story about working in the country, but a reader can never be too sure what the author is trying to tell him/her unless it is specifically written in the poem. What I grasped from our classroom discussion was that the poem is about overwork being an element of the human condition. When people do a specific task repeatedly they begin to dream about it and it always seems to be in their mind. Maybe the poem tries to point out the “comfort factor”; knowing how to do something so well. Once a person does a job for a long time, they become good at it, and they get comfortable with what they are doing. Although the professor thinks that there are no hidden meanings in the poem, I think it is interesting to think that the barrels in the poem represent the speakers’ fulfilled and unfulfilled ambitions. The apples that are left might represent some opportunities that the he passed up. Subsequently, when he says that there were “ten thousand thousand fruit to touch” he might be talking about the numerous opportunities he had in his life. To him the apple picking is like journey that depicts his life. So, is the poem simply a story about working in the country, or is it a comparison of life’s opportunities? The reader decides.

  12. After reading this poem I can put myself in the speaker’s shoes. I am currently working on a car and it has been a non stop process, I feel like I do more work everyday and it is going nowhere. The speaker says, “I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired.” I feel the exact same way right now. It has gotten to the point where I wake up extremely tired because I dreamt about finishing the car or working on it the night before. For many people, this is everyday. I know a lot of people that work is all they can think of and talk about. It seems like work just follows them around and no matter what they do it’s always on their mind. They may have always wanted the job but they never expect the amount of work they have to face. In the end however, the results are always great, you just have to get yourself through those hard times. I think Frost uses the apples to show us just this. Having a great harvest of apples can be a great thing for an individual, the profit would be very pleasing but the work for it would not be as fun as that person would like it to be. This is the same for just about everybody, not a lot of people really enjoy the work they have to do but it has to get done by somebody.

  13. I think anyone who has ever held a job or some other task that they thought sounded like a good idea at the time cam relate to this poem. When I was getting my first degree (in Sociology) I thought that working with people was going to be something that I really loved. So I became a social worker. A year later, I’m back in school trying to get my teaching certification so that I never have to do social work again. It gets to the point that I do find myself dreaming about my work, and it has me close to having a breakdown. It’s not that the job is particularly difficult or challenging, but it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels most days. I lose sleep because I can’t seperate myself from my work. I think that the meaning of this poem is pretty straightforward, and it doesn’t need to be about anything deep or meaningful. It is simply about a feeling that any ofus who have worked can relate to.

  14. this poem is a good example of the way in which robert frost is able to capture a feeling, monotony, and express it in his poetry. the speaker isn’t upset and the way he feels is totaly captured in the poem, there is no confusion in this poem the clear diction and simple structure also add to the seeming simplicity of the poem. This poem was a good intro to the labor day weekend because it seems like the speaker should leave a day for himself to rest. He sees his work and meeningfull because it must be done but in the grand scheme of things it really isnt all that important. this poem left me with the desire to trully value the work i do and yet be weary to loose myself in it, my work.

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