Robert Frost - After Apple Picking
The Sexual Connotations by: J.T. Best
It was 1963 and I was a second year student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana struggling through American
Literature. At the end of one day, the Professor excused the class leaving us with the impression that the poem entitled You
Andrew Marvel, by Archibald
MacLeish would be the subject of a pop quiz to be given the next day. Well I just had to up my grade
point so, one at a time, I sought out four of the most intellectual English majors the campus had to offer and begged for
their input relative to analyzing that poem.
The next day, much to my chagrin, nothing was said in class about the poem I had so sedulously studied so what
I learned was tucked away for future reference. We did, however, delve into After Apple Picking by Robert Frost.
It was discussed in the traditional manner but the lecture ended with the Professor making the naked comment that the poem
was of a sexual nature.
Having just come off of a tortuous learning experience relative to the various levels of You Andrew Marvel,
I left that day’s class wondering what the professor was talking about. Filled with curiosity I sat down with Mr. Frost’s
apple tale and at first saw nothing new, but soon it's sexual depth began to reveal itself.
Now forty some years later, and well into retirement, I took the time to revisit the poem and still
feel the same. So I ask that you join me as I reason through the depths of Robert Frost’s psyche and when all is said,
tell me, is my thinking sick and perverted? Do I need therapy or have I made an arguable case that
Mr. Frost’s poem is truly filled with lust?
Based upon my findings it is obvious that some of its interpreters are so far out into left field as to be disassociated
from reality. Really, how can anything so decadent be religious? It is little wonder so many essayists admit to being unable
to make sense of the poem. To do so, they
simply need to restart their journey and head down the “Road not Taken”. You be the judge!
Oh, and don’t feel sorry for all the expended energy on the Archibald MacLeish poem. As it turned
out, when it came time for the final exam, the professor handed out a single piece of poetry to the entire class entitled
You Andrew Marvel and said, ‘Your final exam will be to analyze this poem’. Now we begin:
Within the title of After
Apple Picking the word “After” denotes a point subsequent in time so what follows must be reflective
in nature. My long two pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree toward heaven still. Within this image Mr. Frost
is laying on his back adoring a wood hard erection that is reaching skyward. It is two pointed because it is being
guided by two testicles. The word long is self-explanatory and, on that score, reflects a good sexual
self-image. The word still is of monumental importance because at that reflective moment in time he is nearly 41 years
old and obviously quite proud of the fact that such things happened for him as perceived.
And there is a barrel that I didn’t fill. Every red-blooded womanizer on the
face of the earth could recognize that line. The barrels he didn’t fill were all the women he really wanted to
have sex with but just couldn’t make it happen. Beside it,…there may be two or three apples I did not pick
upon some bough. These apples are specific women in his life and constitutes a special lot of women he could have
had sex with, but by his own choice, did not. Those types of choices are something that only a sexually adventurous man can
understand; a reason to reject a prize female is a most intimate decision that may never be disclosed.
But I am done with apple picking now. This line is sadder than a Shakespearian tragedy
for the speaker is detecting a noticeable change in his sex life. It may be because of a sag in virility or simply that he
has given up womanizing to settle into the comfort of a single woman. Either way, he has met a sexual turning point in life
where variety is no longer the driving force it used to be. Essence of winter sleep is on the night. This sentence
is reflective in nature, he is thinking back over the basis for his life and now reasoning himself to be entering the winter
of. Night is almost always death, which he now fears and feels close to in time.
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off. The scent of apples is the scent of
a woman and one a man can enjoy to the fullest. A woman has two scents, one coming from her body, in general, and is
the one a man is conscious of during close social contact. The other is vaginal and constitutes a superfine aphrodisiac that
when associated with sex can send a man into nirvana and make him drowse off into the fields of ambrosia. This is especially
true when coming from a woman the man has strong feelings for. The vaginal scent is but one of several components that serve
to build a sexual interlude toward a climax and resultant ejaculation. One can only surmise that Mr. Frost went there often.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight, I got from looking through a pane of glass I skimmed this morning from
a drinking trough. In this phrase he tells us of a special woman he can’t get out of his
mind that he had, at the time, just recently met. He met her at the drinking trough, which is probably a tavern or some other
watering hole where such women can be met. And held against the world of hoary grass. It was upon God’s raw earth
that he had sex with this woman. He may even have used a bit of force to fulfill his lust or at least been unusually aggressive.
Further, she may have been a virgin, which we glean from the next line. It melted, and I let it fall and break. She
melted, both as in ‘finally relented’ and lost her cherry that he broke and let run down. But
I was well upon my way to sleep before it fell. Here he is in nirvana again with a powerful climax building with every
stroke. It was probably a heightened passion and brief sexual encounter because she no sooner looses her virginity than he
is about to ejaculate. And I could tell. What form my dreaming was about to take. He has mental images with
each of his sexual encounters and this one is falling into place as being one that is recognizable. Magnified apples appear
and disappear stem end and blossom end. Here, beautiful women from his past, whether he seduced them or not, pass through
his mind, first their vaginas which is the stem end then their faces which is the blossom end. But, quite frankly, I would
not argue with someone who says the blossom end is a pretty flower and as such represents the vagina. And every fleck of
russet showing clear. The women he is talking about here are all stark naked and every thing about them can be seen and
devoured as a visual feast that he so wickedly desires. My instep arch not only keeps the ache, It keeps the pressure of
a ladder round. We are in the midst of nearly delirious sexual intercourse now; he is digging in with his arches to get
more traction and to give the woman more thrust. Remember, the ladder is his sex organ that was so erect as to be sticking
through a tree. Its pressure is up, he is a young man here in this reflection, strong and virile and he is pushing it in for
all he is worth. I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend. It doesn’t get any better than this, the ladder is
moving in circles that are moving. The boughs are her hips and she is highly adept at bending them to sway his erect loin.
I suspect the woman that was responsible for this line was highly skilled in bed and perhaps most prized in life and memory.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin, the rumbling sound of load on load of apples coming in. He is climaxing, massively.
This woman is the cellar bin and is making deep love noises as she senses him pumping her full of semen with every powerful
thrust. It is also possible that he is the cellar bin and is himself, making noises as loads and loads of his semen again
and again gush deep inside of her. For I have had too much of apple picking; I am overtired of the harvest I myself desired.
We men have all been there, once it is over it is over and it is time to pack up and go home, figuratively speaking. But
in this instance we are confronted with a double meaning, i.e. one that this sexual encounter is over and the other
that he has had enough woman sexually in his life, consequently he admits to having picked enough apples. He is repeating
this either because of the onset of an infirmity of some sort that is slowing him down or he has simply decided to quit womanizing.
He also is admitting to a very high sex drive and to having had a lot of women in his life, which is apparent from the next
line. There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch. Here he tells us of all the women there have been within his
life, they are everywhere for the plucking, more than any one man can possibly have or handle in a lifetime. Cherish in
hand lift down, and not let fall. I love this line for here he gives advice freely to the men of the world. It is a very
sexist phrase, even by yesterday’s standards. He is saying that men should cherish women for what they are and if we
ever get one we like within our grasp don’t let them go, or don’t let them get away because: 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. This is
the message of the poem and comes from the soul of Robert Frost. It is that all those women that were not loved by a man missed
out on the meaning of life. For a woman who is not loved by man has genes that are unfulfilled and, as such, can never overcome
the sense of being without worth. It is also a veiled mention that the woman who does not sleep with a man will not fulfill
the biological need to bear children, as of no worth, i.e. the worth of a woman is to love a man and bear his children.
That applies whether or not women are successful otherwise, or are unblemished or perfect specimens because it makes no
matter from his perspective. One can see what will trouble this sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. Here he lays
bare his soul to the reader by telling them, "There! I told you in plain language, when I die the only thing that will
bother me are the women I didn’t have."
Beyond that he finishes telling us he is a bit agnostic about the hereafter. Of death he is uncertain and somewhat
concerned about what will happen thereafter, will it be in hibernation like the Woodchuck or will he just go to sleep as a
human and never wake up.