Robert Frost's poem, After Apple-Picking, describes the personal reflections of an elderly man who lives on an apple orchard. This old man has lived a good life, and now must contemplate its quality and meaning. By performing an honest assessment of his past, the old man is better able to accept his inevitable future.
The first six lines of this poem develop the situation in which the speaker has found himself. He has led a long and successful life and is still on track for going to heaven upon his death. Apples are used as a metaphor for his wealth, not just monetary wealth, but rather everything that he has accumulated during his life. "And there's a barrel that I didn't fill" implies there are a few more things that he would have liked to have had accomplished in his lifetime. The speaker follows this recognition of his own mortality by adding, "But I am done with apple picking now." This statement is meant to suggest that his life is slowly coming to an end.
"Winter sleep" is the next image that is presented. The speaker is describing two concepts with this line; the deep hibernation that certain animals will fall into during the winter, as well as his own upcoming death. Traces of this "winter sleep" are supposedly being detected during the night that is depicted in this poem. He thinks about his life's accomplishments as he is going to sleep.
Lines nine through seventeen describe both the speaker's transition from consciousness into deep sleep, as well as the onset of winter. He casually thinks about something that occurred earlier in the day that amused him. That morning he finds a layer of ice, "pane of glass", in his animal's "drinking trough." As he picks it up and looks through it, he notices the whitish grey, "hoary", frost that has accumulated on the surrounding grass. The speaker recognizes that the decrease in last night's temperature is a sign that winter is on its way. By the...