Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Much of Frost’s poetry, like “After Apple-Picking,” describes ordinary events taking place in a rural setting, often on the kind of farm where he lived for many years. Many poems also use such settings to pose broad questions concerning the meaning of human life and the relations between man and the natural world. Few of these poems are as clearly allegorical as this one.

The lessons of “After Apple-Picking” could be applied to almost any line of endeavor which the participant loves and enjoys but finds exhausting, partly because of the loving effort required. For Frost himself, the poem most likely is intended to describe his feelings about poetry, after writing it over a period of years.

There is an anomaly in this, for “After Apple-Picking” was written when Frost was thirty-nine, still a relatively young man, while the poem seems to represent an old man’s feelings. The explanation may be that the poem was composed in 1913, immediately after A Boy’s Will (1913), his first book, had been published. The book had come out after many years of struggle and had received little favorable notice. “After Apple-Picking” may have been a response to that disappointment, an expression of his uncertainty about his future as a poet.

In any case, the speaker had wished for a full and productive life in poetry, and he feels that he has had that. Never having desired any other kind of life, he has given all of his devotion to poetry and is able to believe that he has succeeded; the harvest has been a full...

(The entire section is 636 words.)