Friday, October 29, 2010

Poetry Friday: He's Never About Just the Apples

Which is why I love Robert Frost so very much.

Last year, I posted Reluctance as I bid farewell to autumn. I said:

I really didn't get Robert Frost until I was older.

When I was in high school, I thought of him as the death poet, stopping by woods to think about that final nap, or as the rugged individualist, taking New England roads less traveled.

But as I grew up -- lived, moved, loved, worked, lost, made mistakes, grieved, hated, healed, and grew every year to love the shape and layering of words more dearly, I found that I also loved the roads Frost traveled.

Yes, Frost appeals to my middle-aged mature self.  He's keenly aware of fallen nature, desperate wants, lonely needs, steadfast love. And, as I mentioned last year, he stuns me with his talent for tackling the simplest subject and transforming it into a metaphysical wallop. 

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.
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.


The Poetry Friday round up is at The Writer's Armchair. 


Blythe Woolston said...

This poem is uncanny. The images are both quiet and disquieting. Frost distills autumn to perfection.

Toby Speed said...

I remember reading this in high school a hundred years ago, and even then the deep commitment and responsibility of living, through those apples, came through. I have my old, brown-paper-covered copy of my dad's book of Frost's poems, which I'll always treasure.

Melissa Wiley said...

Lord but he's rich. I think I love this poem of his in particular because he himself is so like eating an apple: the tart, the sweet, the crisp bite, the savoring.

"I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight"---oh!

MISSED having you at KidlitCon, my dear!

Mary Lee said...

I have a recording of Frost reading this and now I can hear his voice when I read it.

I think of these lines
"My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round."
whenever I can't get past something that I've been doing or that has happened.

I shake my finger at myself when
"I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired."

This is all to say that this is one (of many) of Frost's poems that has become a part of me.

Anonymous said...

I was in the kitchen cutting up a Jonathon apple, the smell brought my childhood back in a rush of memories. Mom. Then I opened my laptop while still crunching, checked your blog...It certainly is more than just the apples.

Mary Edmisten Kruta

Karen E. said...

Oh, Mary, thanks for that sweet ... bittersweet ... comment. May she rest in peace.

Thanks, all, for your comments, too. And Lissa, I missed being at KidLitCon, too! Maybe next time ....