‘After Apple-Picking’ is constantly nominated as one of the greatest poems written by the American poet Robert Frost. First appearing in 1923 collection ‘North of Boston’, this poem has remained favorite across the world.
The poem depicts someone who is on the verge of exhaustion due to working too much while apple-picking. The final indifference towards something which one loves to do is the subtle theme of this poem.
The poem centrally deals with the laborious process involved in apple picking. Frost, largely known for giving an ambiguity to his poems, does the same here. In the poem, one comes across the physical pressure of apple harvesting but one never gets to know the actual feeling of the speaker.
The ambivalence between desiring harvest so much and behaving indifferently towards the excess of apples makes the multiple interpretations of the poem possible.
The main key point in the poem is the mention of dream. The speaker is sleepy and speculating about what form his dreaming is about to take. In a very masterful way, Frost makes the character give us metaphors from his surroundings.
The simple scene of apple harvesting transforms itself into contemplation on human dreaming and sleeping. The capacity to wonder so richly is what makes the depiction by the speaker in the poem so wonderful.
Frost always uses the commonplace imageries to hint towards the process of art too. Can we see the labor of apple-picking as the labor of poetry making at the same time?
The speaker doesn’t reveal to us about the final feeling regarding the apple-picking. The art of writing poetry or any act of creation is something very similar. The artist loves the vision of art and perpetually desires its creation but the labor which makes it tangible in reality is always tiresome.
The speaker of the poem is a poet. He is constantly trying to bring out some deeper meaning from the mere daily acts. The choice of certain words in the poem makes it much deeper as one may sense from the surface. When the speaker says, what will trouble this sleep of mine? What does he mean by the word trouble?
Frost was a farmer himself. That’s why the poem has such a higher degree of realism. There can be a whole new degree of meaning in the poem if the apple-picking is seen in the context of the Fall in the biblical sense.
In the beginning, the poet has mentioned the ladder’s sticking through a tree toward heaven still. The critical awareness of the speaker, the act of questioning the labor and anticipating one’s own dream, makes us see the poem in a different way.
Apart from the central imagery of apples and mechanical details of farming, the dreamy state of vision of the speaker is the real depth. One doesn’t get to know clearly about the sleep.
The speaker carelessly says that this sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. The poem shrouds the act of sleeping with mystery. One finally questions what happens to us while we are asleep and what is human sleep.