The geese are flying and the woodchucks are preparing their winter burrows — it’s harvest season, so our homeschool 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 — one that is like, or perhaps not like, the woodchuck’s long winter nap.
There isn’t as much formal structure in “After Apple-Picking” as there is in many of Frost’s other poems, but there is still quite a bit of rhyme and it often follows regular patterns. (ABBA in the first four lines, for example.) In keeping with its theme, the poem has a rather dream-like quality. 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 and poetical productions are you studying in your homeschool this Cygnus Term? 😊
❡ 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 weekly poems, just copy it onto your homeschool bulletin board for a few days and invite your students to speak it aloud — that’s all it takes to begin a new poetical friendship and learn a few lovely words that will stay with you for life. 🍏
❡ Literary lives: The website of the Poetry Foundation includes biographical notes 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. Add your name to our River Houses mailing list to get posts like these delivered right to your mailbox, and print your own River Houses Poetry Calendar to follow along with us as we visit fifty of our favorite friends over the course of the year. 📖