Text of the Poem

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.


  1. Frost uses anthropomorphism in his portrayal of the woodchuck, or groundhog. Anthropomorphism is a type of personification in which nonhumans, particularly animals, are made to act like people. By attributing human behavior to a woodchuck, which hibernates during the winter, Frost reminds readers of the universal aspects of the human experience—such as death, which hibernation represents. Further, Frost possibly anthropomorphizes the woodchuck in order to symbolize the uncertainty and fear that the speaker feels when he wonders whether he will awaken as usual from his “human sleep.”

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Frost’s repetition of the word “thousand” is an example of epizeuxis, a device in which words are repeated without intervening words between them. In this context, epizeuxis further emphasizes both the speaker’s exhaustion and the excess of the “great harvest” that he once wanted.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Frost makes use of alliteration, or the repetition of consonant sounds, in this line. The repetition of the consonant sound “b” in the words “boughs” and “bend” enhances the bizarre imagery of the scene. Further, alliteration reinforces the poem’s increasingly irregular rhythm, which seems to mimic the disorienting experience of the speaker’s dream.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The noun “fleck” means a mark or spot; the adjective “russet” means brownish or reddish in color. The apples in the speaker’s dream are almost overwhelming in their size, for they are so large that “every fleck of russet” in their flesh is easy to see.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This line contains a diacope, a device in which a word is repeated with intervening words in between. By repeating the word “end,” the speaker effectively captures what it is like being overwhelmed by the size and number of apples in his dream.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Frost employs assonance, or the repetition of the same vowel sound in rapid succession, in this line. The words “magnified,” “apple,” and “and” contain the same “a” vowel sound, whereas the words “appear” and “disappear” contain a slightly different “a” vowel sound. In this case, assonance enhances the poem’s tone as the speaker describes the strange images in his dream.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The adjective “hoary” means grayish or white, especially in reference to something old—such as an aging person’s hair. Frost’s depiction of a “world of hoary grass” indicates that winter, which represents death, is close at hand.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. The repetition of words containing the letter “s” in these two lines is an example of sibilance, a device in which the consonant “s” is repeated in order to create a hissing sound when the poem is read aloud. In “After Apple-Picking,” sibilance enhances rhythm and calls attention to the imagery that the speaker is about to describe. Further, the hissing sound of sibilant words develops the poem’s progressively dreamlike tone.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The noun “essence” refers to the basic, intrinsic quality of something, especially something abstract. An essence can also be a fragrance. So, Frost means that the speaker can smell “winter sleep,” which has the “scent of apples,” as he begins to fall asleep and dream.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Apple-picking serves as an extended metaphor, a literary device in which two different things are compared by implying or asserting that they are the same thing, for the ambitions and accomplishments that a person pursues throughout life. An extended metaphor unfolds throughout an entire text and usually uses smaller metaphors for reinforcement. In “After Apple-Picking,” the extended metaphor for a person’s ambitions and achievements is supplemented by the approaching winter sleep, or hibernation, which is a metaphor for death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. Lines three, four, and five use enjambment, in which a thought or phrase that originates in one line continues into the following lines of verse. Enjambment creates movement and a sense of anticipation as the speaker gradually shifts from a waking to a sleeping state.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. Frost uses a caesura in his description of apples hanging beside the barrel that the speaker has left unfilled. A caesura is a break within a line of poetry, usually in the form of punctuation such as a comma (,), em dash (—), or ellipses (...). In this context, the comma in the middle of line four augments both the poem’s rhythm and its vivid imagery.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Frost possibly alludes to Jacob’s ladder from the Bible. According to Genesis 28:10-22, Jacob is cast out of Canaan by his mother Rebekah because his brother, Esau, intends to murder him. On his way to Haran, where he is supposed to hide and find a wife with whom to continue the lineage of Abraham, Jacob falls asleep at “a certain place” and begins to dream about a huge ladder that extends all the way up to heaven. He sees angels climbing up and down the ladder and the Lord, who stands at the top, tells Jacob that the land he is sleeping on will be given to him and his offspring.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor