What is the speaker's state of mind in Robert Frost's poem "After Apple-Picking"?

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randroid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker's overwhelming state of mind in "After Apple-Picking" is tired and reflective. He was already tired in the beginning of the day when he took a drink and is even more exhausted after a long day spent picking apples. Physically, he is sore and worn out. His instep still feels the imprint of the ladder rung that he spent all day standing upon. He describes the ladder as "long," which gives us an image of our speaker getting tired from climbing up and down the ladder all day long. 

During the poem, the speaker slips in and out of lucid thoughts and dream-like imaginations as he is drifting off. He sees images of larger-than-life red apples floating in front of his eyes.

We can tell that our speaker is conscious of unfinished business, even though he appears to be done with apple-picking for the most part. He describes his ladder still in place within the tree branches, with an empty barrel next to it. He speculates about whether there are still any apples left on any of the trees. Even though he worries, he knows that he did a good job. While there may be apples left on trees, there may not be any apples left. If there are apples left over to pick, he suspects there are only two or three apples left on some branch somewhere.

...there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.

The speaker seems to feels that he is still in the progress of apple-picking, although he says he is done. The apples are still very much on his mind. He can already tell that he is going to dream about them, and the scent of the apples still lingers in his senses.

The speaker reflects on the harvest and his day's work. He initially wanted to have this amount of apples to pick, but over the course of the day became extremely tired of picking them. Having these apples to harvest is now both a blessing and a curse to him. His exhaustion represents both his satisfaction and possible regret over his ambitious choice to take on these many apple trees. He remembers how careful he had to be that day and doubtless other days in handling the apples. This alludes to the stress of having to worry about losing profit from any apples he bruised during apple-picking.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall

The poem ends with the speaker pondering his sleep on a philosophical note. Is his sleep like a human's sleep, or is it closer to a deeper sleep? He wonders if his sleep is closer to a hibernation, like a woodchuck's sleep, or if it is simply the sleep of a very tired human.