Just before we moved from Los Angeles to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1981, I finished my Master’s degree in American Literature at Cal Poly, Pomona (California Polytechnic State University at Pomona, California). One of the courses I really enjoyed centered on the poetry and life of Robert Frost. Years later, when we moved to Boston for me to attend seminary at the Boston University School of Theology, we drove up to New Hampshire and visited the farm where Frost lived and wrote many of his poems. One of the poems that I loved then and find even more important to me at this stage of my life is “After Apple-Picking.” There are references to heaven, to work unfinished, and to how important it was to try to pick every apple—which means lots of references to the work of Christians who try to follow Christ’s commandments. I offer the poem to you today as I have just re-read it and was moved once more. This strikes home to every Christian who has tried to give all they have and are tired. I’ll give you a clue—it’s not just about apple picking.
BY ROBERT FROST 1915
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.