On the simplest narrative level, the poem describes how, after astrenuous day of apple-picking, the speaker has dreams in which hisprevious activities return to him ‘magnified’, blurred and distorted bymemory and sleep.
On a deeper level, however, it presents us with anexperience in which the world of normal consciousness and the worldthat lies beyond it meet and mingle.
‘I cannot rub the strangeness frommy sight’, says the narrator, and this strangeness, the ‘essence ofwinter sleep’, is something he shares with the reader.
The dreamyconfusion of the rhythm, the curiously ‘echoing’ effect of theirregular, unpredictable rhyme scheme, the mixing of tenses, tones, andsenses, the hypnotic repetition of sensory detail: all these thingspromote a transformation of reality that comes, paradoxically, from aclose observation of the real, its shape, weight, and fragrance, ratherthan any attempt to soar above it:
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 the 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.
As usual, in this poem Frost hovers between the daylight world ofcommonsense reality and the dream world of possibility, the voices ofsense and of song, the visions of the pragmatist and the prophet, thecompulsions of the road and the seductions of the woods. This time,however, he appears to belong to both realms, rather than hold backfrom a full commitment to either.
Dualism is replaced by an almostreligious sense of unity here; and the tone of irony, quizzicalreserve, completely disappears in favour of wonder and incantation.
American Poetry of the Twentieth Century