Robert Frost ’s “October” uses both its form and content to depict a moment in time right before fall gives way to winter. Although the poem takes the form of one stanza, it can be roughly split into two parts that are different in terms of content and the type...
Robert Frost’s “October” uses both its form and content to depict a moment in time right before fall gives way to winter. Although the poem takes the form of one stanza, it can be roughly split into two parts that are different in terms of content and the type of speech employed.
In the first part, the speaker’s use of apostrophe—that is, the speaker’s address to October—is primarily descriptive. We learn that the leaves are about to fall and that the crows are preparing to fly away before winter arrives. In the second part of the poem, the purpose of apostrophe shifts as the speaker uses the imperative to command October:
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
The speaker’s request is almost absurd in its optimism, as he asks October to slow down, dropping only two leaves a day in a way that would stretch both time (“day,” “noon”) and space (“our trees,” “far away”). By asking to be beguiled, the speaker seems to realize the fantastical nature of this request. The speaker explains that, in juxtaposition with October, the harsh winter will destroy the grapes, and he wants to postpone this moment.
But this desire to slow down the passing of time is not just part of the poem’s content—it is also integral to the poem’s form. The single stanza stretches down the page, and this elongation is furthered by the poem’s rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme is irregular, which causes the reader to both speed up and slow down at various points. This slowing down is particularly evident in the shortest of the poem’s lines, when the speaker commands, “Slow, slow!” The caesura and exclamation mark both produce long pauses for the reader, stretching out the poem. Through manipulation of form and content,the speaker attempts to persuade October to slow down and linger longer before the arrival of winter.