After Apple-Picking the poem begins with the expression of the thoughts of the speaker who is an apple-picker and having picked apples throughout the day, he is tired now. Though his day’s work is over, but the task of apple-picking is not yet complete.
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.
The poem begins with the two pointed ladders that is directed to the heaven and here we get to see a biblical reference. Beside the ladder, there is a barrel that has not yet been filled with apples, that means the task of apple-picking is incomplete. But the speaker tells that he is tired of apple-picking.
The scent of the apples causes drowsiness to him, and he begins to drowse off. While falling asleep he recollects the experiences by looking through a sheet of ice. Through that sheet of ice he found everything strange and drowsy and this whole thing can be stated that his sleep has taken him to the other world which seems quite different from the one he lives in.
The sheet of ice melted, and the speaker allowed it to fall down from his hands, and break into pieces. Before it fell down, he was just on the verge of falling asleep. In this sleepy state he was able to tell what form his dreaming was to take place, or what kind of dreams he was about to see in his sleep.
These lines describe the dream of thespeaker. Apples of an enlarged size appear and disappear everywhere – at the end of the stem and at the end of the flowering part of the tree. The speaker's feet not only feel the pain, but also the pressure of the ladder-round.
Along with this he keeps hearing the ‘rumbling sound’ of carts carrying ‘load on load of apples’ and the apples are not allowed to fall from the hands of the speaker, because if they fall down on the ground then they are treated as rejected. From this rejection we get an idea of Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit.
At the end the poet-speaker guesses what will trouble his sleep. His sleep may be troubled by the thought or awareness of the reality which has been ignored in the dream. If the wood chunk has not gone to his long sleep for the winter, it would be able to explain the nature of the poet’s sleep, and to tell whether it is a long sleep, or just an ordinary sleep.