“After Apple-Picking” – Analysis

Blog: This poem certainly seems to be about apple picking, and about sleep. What more could apple-picking and sleep represent? And if they represent more than themselves, then what sort of figure does that make them?

In “After Apple-Picking,” Frost uses two symbols; apples and sleep. Both are symbols because they exist in the speaker’s life, but also figuratively. In this case, apples are a symbol for the accomplishments in life (in the speaker’s life). By picking apples, the speaker accomplishes something, however when he misses the apples, the speaker does not achieve anything. The persona says, “And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill.” That barrel is supposed to hold apples, and by not filling that barrel, the speaker missed so much that is out there (in the world). The speaker says, “There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,” meaning there is much to experience in the world, and the persona missed so much of it; there is simply not enough time to see everything the world offers. This is why the speaker is ready to sleep. In this poem, sleep is used as a symbol for death. After feeling finished with apple-picking, the speaker mentions fatigue and sleep approaching him. The first time it is used is on line 7. Right before that, on line 6, the persona says, “But I am done with apple-picking.” Following that, he says, “Essence of winter sleep is on the night,” showing how death is coming near and how, who I think is an old man, the speaker knows death is around the corner. The word, “winter,” is often associated with the words dark and death. He says, “I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight,” connoting that he cannot get away from his weariness. To further show how he is tired of apple-picking, he says, “For I have had too much/Of apple-picking: I am overtired/Of the great harvest I myself desired.” This proves how he is “overtired” of apple-picking. Soon after, at the end of the poem, the speaker describes his upcoming sleep. He says, “Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,/Or just some human sleep.” This quote shows how the speaker is tired of life and how he is readily awaiting his “long sleep.”

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“Harlem,” “Digging,” and “The Writer” – Literary Figure Use

Blog: “Harlem,” “Digging,” and “The Writer” each open with one type of literary figure (simile, metaphor, symbol), only to replace that figure with one of a different type by the end. Consider what the shift achieves in each poem: overall, how do the shifts demonstrate the differences between simile, metaphor, and symbol? This question is about how the different literary figures operate, not about the specific shifting meanings of the deferred dream, the poet’s pen, and the young writer.

In “Harlem,” the poem opens up with a question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” as well as a simile: “Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?” This shifts to a metaphor in the last line: “Or does it explode?” This shift helps emphasize the possibilities of what can happen to a dream. Throughout the whole poem, each literary figure has a negative connotation; for example, a raisin drying up in the sun suggests the dream is abandoned and loses its juice. However, the last line with the italicized word, “explode”, can mean that the dream flourishes and becomes alive. From starting with the first simile and ending with this metaphor of the dream exploding, a whole new possibility for the dream is created, giving the poem’s ending a certain effect. The reason it is a metaphor and not a symbol or imagery, is because a dream cannot really explode (imagery), nor can it both literally explode and mean more than what it says (symbol).

In “Digging,” the poem begins with a simile and ends with a metaphor. The simile in the beginning: “Between my finger and my thumb/my squat pen rests, snug as a gun” shifts to a metaphor at the end of the poem: “Between my finger and my thumb/my squat pen rests, I’ll dig with it.” This shift achieves a newer meaning for the pen; by using this metaphor at the end of the poem, the pen becomes a metaphor for a spade. It is not a physical spade that he can dig like his father and grandfather did, but he can dig with his pen through writing. The pen cannot be a symbol for a spade because it does not infinitely relate to it, like symbols do. The reason it is a metaphor for a spade is that the boy can dig with it to follow his dream, but he cannot literally dig using the pen. By having this shift, the poem takes something from the beginning and in the end transforms it into the boy’s decision and plan of not following his ancestor’s tradition, but still keeping it alive by still digging, but differently.

Finally, in “The Writer,” the piece begins with a metaphor to be replaced with a symbol. The metaphor relates the young writer’s life and/or writing career to a ship’s journey, using many nautical elements such as the first line, “In her room at the prow of the house,” immediately brings in boats to the poem. Throughout the first half of the poem, her life and/or writing career are related to a cargo ship, and the second half of the poem uses a bird that was trapped in the girl’s room to symbolize the young writer. Struggling to put her heavy burdens onto paper, the speaker calling it a situation “Of life or death,” the young girl can infinitely be related to the bird. By switching from a metaphor to a symbol, the poem gives the reader a real sense of what the girl’s life is like, but also by taking a memory that the speaker describes and using the subject of that memory to symbolize the girl ties everything up in a sense that the reader understands the girl, and is able to infinitely interpret and relate her to the bird.

“The Writer” – Analysis

Blog: Just a free reflection this time: what do you think is the message of the poem? Why?

I really like this poem because of the way it portrays its message through the use of similes and metaphors. The first metaphor is comparing the girl’s life to the sea. The first line uses the word, “prow”, and on the second line, the speaker says “the windows are tossed with linden”, both relating to situation to a journey at sea. The linden being the ocean and its waves. On the sixth line, the speaker uses a simile, comparing the girl typing to “a chain hauled over a gunwale.” Throughout this poem, the girl’s life is used metaphorically with the sea. She often pauses, connoting the struggles she faces in writing her story, but even more to represent the obstacles in life. Her father wishes her a “lucky passage”, also relating to a ships journey, hoping she will do well. The journey in this case is the girl’s life and how her father can get the ship to start, but the girl has to guide and steer it. This idea is portrayed in the majority of the second half of the poem, when a starling was trapped in the same room the girl is typing in. Her father watched and waited for it to find the open window, careful of not frightening it. This is a similar situation to the idea of opening the door for the daughter. Finally, on lines 26-30, the bird gathers its brains to find the open window and escape the room, and “Clearing the sill of the world.” The father wants his daughter, the writer, to face the world.

“Digging” – Analysis

Blog: Contrast the first stanza of the poem with the last, considering specifically the replacement of “snug as a gun” (2) with “I’ll dig with it” (31). What kind of attitude toward the speaker’s work does each phrase suggest? What does this slight change from the beginning of the poem to the end represent? Can you support your analysis with evidence from the middle stanzas?

I really enjoyed the way this poem was written and how it portrays its message of following you talents, but begin aware of what came before you. The first and last stanzas are the same, except Heaney added “I’ll dig with it” to the last stanza, referring to the speaker’s pen. As it says in the first stanza, the pen rests as “snug as a gun” in his hand, suggesting that he feels comfortable with the pen, and the pen fits well in his hand. Throughout the poem, he watches his father dig outside, “Stooping in rhythm through the potato drills.” He sees how well his father digs; how he has been digging for his whole life: “Bends low, comes up twenty years away.” The fifth and sixth stanzas describe the young man’s grandfather digging out his years as well. The speaker says, “Through living roots awaken in my head, but I’ve no spade to follow men like them,” connoting his desire to follow a different path. He takes the strong qualities that he has seen growing up in his father and grandfather, and uses them with writing. The last stanza says, “I’ll dig with it,” showing how he will use his pen to dig like his elders. The young man is breaking the tradition, however, he will still dig with the pen, symbolizing the spade, but this time through writing.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138 – Double Meaning Words

Throughout this sonnet, there are a few words with multiple meanings:

Lie(s) – Line 2 says, “lie(s)”, which can either mean not telling the truth or during that time, sleeping with another lover. On the second to last line, Shakespeare writes, “Therefore I lie with her and she with me,” which in this case can be about them lying to each other, or how they remain a loving couple. On the last line, “And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be,” I feel like “lies” means to not tell the truth, because of the word, “faults” before it. The two use their lies to balance out their relationship. I just want to point out that on the first line, he calls his lover “my love” showing they stay together, despite the lying.

Vainly – The next word with two meanings is, “vainly”, which is on line 5. In one case, it means that she just thinks he is young and inexperienced, or it could mean that she does not want him to learn about her infidelity.

Simply – The word “simply” is located on line 7, and the two meanings I pulled out of it are something made solely up of one thing, or something easily done. In this context, I think the meaning would be the latter.

Habit – The last double meaning word is “habit”, on line 11, I found very difficult to grasp. The only meaning I found other than something random (a loose garment) and a regular practice, which seems to make more sense. The line would explain how love is best seen is though trust.

“Meeting at Night” – Imagery and Musicality

Blog: Choose one of the poems and make some observations about the effects of the imagery and musicality (meter, assonance, rhyme, etc.)

I found this poem to be harder than “The Forge”, but I was able to pull some things out of it. The first use of musicality I noticed is the word “the” in the first three lines. Each “and” pauses the line, making the reader wait to hear what the other half of the line is. There is “the gray sea and the long black land”, “And the yellow half-moon”, and finally “And the startled little waves”. Each of these seem to set a nice setting for the poem, showing where it takes place. Lines 3 and 4 make a perfect rhyme, with “leap” and “sleep”. Next, on line 6, I heard the “sh” sound in the words “quench” and “slushy”, which both let the reader to hear what is happening. In the following line, I somehow sense serenity, with the soft “s” sounds, such as “sea-scented”. This helps one imagine a “mile of warm sea-scented beach”. The next line feels much faster, using many unstressed syllables to do so. When I read the line, I made it, stressed, unstressed five times, stressed, and the last two stressed. This speed in this line bring excitement to the poem, helping the reader feel what the character does about being so close to his destination. Something else I found is on line 9, where it says, “quick sharp scratch” helps me hear the man at his lover’s door. Lines 9 and 10 have a perfect rhyme with, “scratch” and “match”, connect the two lines in a sense that allows the reader to hear a knock at a door, and see a match being lit in a pitch-black room. Lastly, on the last line, I made out, unstressed thrice, stressed, unstressed twice, stressed, and the last two stressed.

“The Forge” – Imagery and Musicality

Blog: Choose one of the poems and make some observations about the effects of the imagery and musicality (meter, assonance, rhyme, etc.)

I saw a lot of imagery and musicality in this poem. The poem really paints a picture of a blacksmith inside his workshop. It had a dark, rusty feel to it, that allowed me to look into the poem. The first line grabs the reader with its mysterious words; “All I know is a door into the dark.” There is alliteration with the words, “door” and “dark” which add to this mysterious feel. The poet then talks about the outside of the workshop: “Old axles and iron hoops rusting.” This line leaves a small pause at the end, right after the word, “rusting” making the next line about the inside of the room dramatic. The speaker talks about some things inside the room, such as “the unpredictable fantail of sparks” and the “hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.” In these two lines, I can hear what is going on inside the workshop. The word “sparks” sounds like a spark, and “hiss” sounds like something hissing. These type of words help the reader hear what is happening in the poem. Line 9, talks about the blacksmith in his environment: “Where he expends himself in shape and music.” This line lets me see into the room, a man, “leather-aproned, hairs in his nose.” One rhyme I found is on lines 10 and 12; the words, “nose” and “rose”, somehow tying the two lines together. The words, “shape” and “music” can be related to his work, the shape being what he makes, and the music is the sounds that release from the room. Finally, the last line, “To beat real iron out, to work the bellows” is nice imagery, again showing the reader a man working, bending over to tend the fire.

UPDATE: One thing I noticed in class today that I did not see last night while reading this poem is how the blacksmith hears hoofs, but looks out the window and looks out the window seeing “traffic in flashing rows”. This shows how this blacksmith is stuck in a time where horses were used as transportation, but looks out the window, seeing cars and the present time; he and his job remained the same, while everything surrounding him evolved into a new world.