friday feast: after apple-picking by robert frost


It would be sacrilege to celebrate Apple Month without including Robert Frost. He loved his apple orchards and his ruminations upon the fruit resulted in many poems. Besides, he was a New Englander, like my husband, and once, years ago, I got to visit the farmhouse in Franconia, New Hampshire, where Frost lived full-time from 1915-1920, and where he spent 19 summers. I remember pausing in the narrow country lane, trying hard to hear his voice in the wind. I gently touched the battered mailbox, wondering what good and bad news he had found there regarding his poems.

Today The Frost Place is a museum open to visitors mostly on weekends and afternoons from Memorial Day to the first week of October. There are educational programs and an annual conference with writing workshops. Each year, an emerging young poet is given a cash stipend and the opportunity to live and work in the house during July and August. How cool is that?

But back to the apples. In 1920 Frost moved from Franconia to Shaftsbury, Vermont, seeking “a better place to farm and especially to grow apples.”  There he planted McIntosh, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Red Astrachan, hoping to fulfill his dream of a “thousand apple trees of some unforbidden variety.”  Today there is only one tree still living from this orchard, but The Frost Museum is currently trying to restart the orchard via grafting. The Robert Frost Apple Project seeks to “create a display orchard of 20 trees composed of the historic varieties of apples as mentioned in Frost’s letter.” People from all over the country will be able to purchase a cutting to plant a Frost tree of their own. What a beautiful idea! Read more about it here.

So, sip your coffee or tea, and enjoy once again, probably the most famous apple poem ever written by an American poet.


by Robert Frost (1915)

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.
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 glass
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,
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.
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 sound
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,
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 heap
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 his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

To hear Frost read this poem, click here.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Two Writing Teachers.

18 thoughts on “friday feast: after apple-picking by robert frost

  1. What a memory to have walked down his lane. Great pick (oops … pardon the pun ….)
    Karen Edmisten


  2. TadMack says:
    Oh, his voice!
    It is so neat to hear a poet read their own work. They put emphasis on it I never do. Thanks!


  3. Re: TadMack says:
    You’re right. It’s often a surprise to hear the poet read his own work. The emphasis and expression are often quite different from the voice you’ve had in your head for certain poems all along.


  4. I love that he wrote so many apple-related poems. Remembering things like that reminds me that it’s okay to write more than one poem about the same basic subject, as long as you follow the advice in Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and “try looking at it another way.”


  5. “a Frost tree of their own”—how magical would that be??
    I love the part of this poem when the arch of his foot remembers the ladder rung. That’s when I knew he’d really picked apples, and not just watched.
    Sara Holmes


  6. Don’t most writers write about the same themes over and over again anyway? With Charlotte Bronte, it was always about unrequited love.
    Apples permeated Frost’s life. He couldn’t help but look at an apple from every possible angle, holding it in his hand, turning it over and over.
    That’s what poets do with ideas . . .
    it takes many many tries to get it right.


  7. Perfectly said: “I am overtired
    Of the great harvest I myself desired.
    There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
    Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.”
    I do love Frost.


  8. Thanks for linking to Frost’s voice. I love to hear him reading his poetry!
    Mary Lee
    A Year of Reading


  9. Love Frost
    Always loved Frost’s poetry. He manages to take me back to my childhood…
    Also love to know where to buy a fainting couch…Apple pie recipe sounds divine!


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