The geese are flying and the woodchucks are preparing their winter burrows — it’s harvest season, so our poem-of-the-week for this third week of October is a dreamy story of orchard-labor from 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.
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.
This poem is full of wonderful descriptive images — if you take your homescholars to a pick-your-own apple orchard this month they’ll understand them all. 🍎 And after an hour or two of farm labor, perhaps they’ll be ready for a nap — like, or not like, the woodchuck’s long winter nap.
There isn’t as much formal structure in this poem as there is in many of Frost’s verses, but there is quite a bit of rhyme and it often follows regular patterns (ABBA in the first four lines). The poem has a dream-like quality perhaps, matching its theme. How often is our daytime work the subject of our dreams? Do we sometimes get so much of a desired thing that it wears us out? (“Be careful what you wish for.”) Do animals dream? Even in their months-long winter hibernation? Every open-ended question you ask will exercise and expand the young minds in your charge.
What wonderful words have you discovered in your homeschool this week? 😊
❡ I am overtired / Of the great harvest I myself desired: If a special line or turn of phrase happens to strike you in one of our poems-of-the-week, just copy it onto your homeschool bulletin board for a few days and invite your students to speak it aloud a few times — that’s all it takes to begin a new poetical friendship and learn a few lovely words that will stay with you for life. 😊
❡ Explore more: The website of the Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org) includes biographies and examples of the work of many important poets (including Robert Frost) that are suitable for high school students and homeschool teachers.
❡ Here, said the year: This post is one of our regular homeschool poems-of-the-week. Print your own River Houses poetry calendar for the whole year at riverhouses.org/calendars and follow along with us as we visit forty-eight of our favorite friends.