Gathering Leaves by Robert Frost

Gathering Leaves

Notes on the poem by Robert Frost for AS English Literature exam.

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Gathering Leaves by Robert Frost


By Robert Frost

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Gathering Leaves title

Gathering Leaves

'Gathering' becomes an adjective- could refer to "I am gathering up leaves" or "leaves that gather together in a pile"

The action of gathering leaves universalises Frost's poem as many people can idnetify with the action; everyone has to rake up leaves from their yard at some point, for some it is even a job.

This poem could be about the playful yet frustrating task of collecting fallen leaves so they can be disposed of. However, metaphorically and on a universal scale, Gatherinf Leaves, seems to explore the 'point' of our actions and whether the "persistent pursuit of unseen ends", as Mordecai Marcus wrote, can be beneficial. It also seems to question the perceived obligations within society; the task may symoblise a dull acceptance, going through the motions out of routine and as a duty.

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Gathering Leaves lines 1 to 4

Spades take up leaves

No better than spoons,

And bags full of leaves

Are light as balloons.


The quick movement of the lines, which are 5 syllables long, echo the speed required to perform the task of gathering the leaves.

The rhyming of lines 2 and 4 show Frost's humour- they are lighthearted, but with a sinister undertone, as if to ask how much of our lives we waste.

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lines 5-8 in first column, 9-12 in second

I make a great noise                                                      But the mountains I raise

Of rustling all day                                                           Elude my embrace,

Like rabbit and deer                                                       Flowing over my arms

Running away.                                                                 And into my face.

The use of the first person suggests the persona could be any older, meditative person, allowing a large number of readers to relate to the poem.

The cyclical nature of the harvest alludes to the last lines of the poem: "And who's to say where/ The harvest shall stop?" (see relevant slide for futher discussion on this theme).

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13-16 in first column, 17-20 in second.

I may load and unload                                                       Next to nothing for weight

Again and again                                                                And since they grew duller

Till I fill a whole shed,                                                       From contact with earth

And what have I then?                                                      Next to nothing for colour.

Mono and duosyllabic lexis,t he alternating lines are cohesive: e.g. 'unload' 'shed', and 'weight' 'earth'.

Life grows 'duller' near the end of the 'harvest'. Although Frost seems lighthearted, reflecting his often  playful attitude, the persona 's activities are only completed through perceived obligation.

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lines 21-24

Next to nothing for use.

But a crop is a crop,

And who's to say where

The harvest shall stop.

The last lines suggest there is some purpose in such a repetitive task, it has an intrinsic value that may suggest a dependency on nature.

The cyclical nature of the harvest can also be applied to life: birth, life, deathm- this is repeated billions of times for each person on earth, and within our lives we can give birth and experience a new cycle

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Mending Wall- the persona of this poem suggests he would like to deviate from the menial task of mending the wall as it seems unnecessary and inconsequential much like the task of gathering leaves. Both poems explore the meaning of life.

A Leaf Treader- the persona of this poem is 'autumn tired'

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep- seems to suggeest th people along the shore staring out at the sea are engaging in a pointless activity, but they cannot stop it, also a similar theme in After Apple Picking.

These comparisons are simply suggestions, leaving plenty of opportunity for personal exploration of overlapping ideas, themes and symbols in the wide selection of Frost's poems.

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Please contribute and comment; this is the most difficult poem from the anthology and the exam is very soon! The cards are simply a collection of my notes and ideas, and definitely are not 'right' as such- one good thing is that any ideas are 'correct' it is how you explain them and give evidence that matters. However, they are just my ideas, and some of the links are extremely tenuous, one of my sources had factual errors for one of the poems (The Black Cottage) so I hope the points for this poem are also not incorrect.

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