‘After Apple-Picking’ is a deeply sensuous poem, layered with meaning and thought-provoking imagery which appeal to my senses as a reader. The poem sees Frost reflect on a day’s work of harvesting apples, yet it seems to me that like many of Frost’s poems, his work holds a deeper meaning. The mundane task of apple-picking seems to represent his life’s journey, full of achievements and high points, yet also littered with regret, “And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill”. This “barrel” that Frost mentions can be seen to symbolise the things he didn’t do in his life, missed opportunities and mistakes, which I personally find to be quite a pessimistic metaphor and am instantly reminded of the saying ‘a glass half empty’. However, a sense of peace permeates the poet’s tone throughout the poem as he takes a step back from his work and reflects, “But I am done with apple-picking now”. I find this peaceful tone quite soothing and it helps to draw me into the poem. I personally think that the reference to the time of year, “Essence of winter sleep is on the night”, may in fact be a reference to the fact that death is an inevitable part of life and the importance of reflecting on what we have achieved during our time on earth.
The lethargic mood is emphasised through elongated vowels and assonance, “I am drowsing off”, creating a soothing atmosphere. The farmer’s drifting in and out of consciousness is highlighted through the description of his blurred vision, “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight”. This sense of blurred vision is something we can all relate with; thus, it engages me in the poem. However, this also seems to portray the idea that the poet has seen the world in a new way, something we all experience at a time of change in our lives. As a sixth-year student, I find this observation to be very relevant in my own life as leaving school has caused me to view my overall school experience in a new light. Like so many of his poems, ‘After Apple-Picking’ touches on experiences that continue to be relevant in the lives of all today. The varying line lengths and highly irregular rhyme throughout the poem help to emphasis the abstract dreams the poet is having, “Magnified apples appear and disappear”. I enjoy Frost’s inclusion of his dreams in the poem, as it captures his creativity which is something I feel should be at the heart of all poetry.
Frost’s descriptive images of his own thoughts also contribute to making the poem more personal and portray his own vivid memories of the life he has lived,“And every fleck of russet showing clear”. Despite his obvious achievements, Frost makes it known to the reader that his life has not been without its struggles, “My instep arch not only keeps the ache/ It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round”. I personally think that this is a very important message that Frost portrays to me as a reader, as in a world full of mental health problems, it is vital that we are aware that everyone has their own struggles and to be mindful of this. His recognition of his own problems in his life allows me to relate to him and engages me in what is quite an abstract poem.
The clear sounds in this poem appeal to the senses and allow me to further connect with the poem, “The rumbling sound/ Of load on load of apples coming in”. Frost openly discusses his exhaustion from the task of apple-picking, “For I have had too much/ Of apple-picking”, which can also be seen as a symbol of his exhaustion from his own life. Although I am of a completely different age bracket to the age Frost was when he wrote this poem, I can somewhat relate to his exhaustion after the stress and pressure of the Leaving Certificate exams. There is undoubtedly a spiritual element to this poem as Frost can be seen to question the very meaning of our existence, “This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is”. I cannot help but feel that the tone here is one of disillusionment and that the poet is portraying a negative view on the meaning of human existence.
Frost’s view that all our efforts and labours return to dust, “As of no worth”, is quite shocking and is not a view I myself agree with. This negative mood greatly contrasts the positive view of the human person portrayed in ‘The Tuft of Flowers’. However, despite his opinion being profoundly pessimistic, it does cause me to stop and think about the nature of existence, a question which in a year so full of stress and exams, is important to reflect on. While not everyone will agree with Frost’s negative take on the meaning of life, this poem remains relevant to the modern reader as questioning the path we are taking in our lives is something we should all engage with in order to reach fulfilment. Throughout ‘After Apple-Picking’, Frost inspires the reader to delve into themselves and discover if their own version of apple-picking is making them truly happy.