Robert Frost

(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963 / San Francisco)

Gathering Leaves


Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Stephen W (3/3/2013 10:08:00 AM)

    One of his more obscure works. I see a pattern in Frost's work of commenting on things that happen in the world, usually outdoors, and drawing symbolic meaning from them. So I think he really did gather up the leaves, but got a sense of futility in doing so. 'Next to nothing for use' isn't quite the same as 'Absolutely useless' would be. It's possible he was trying to stop them blowing away by putting them in a shed. They can be used as a mulch, for fertiliser. He was a farmer in early life. As to the symbolic meaning, it's possible this was a sort of make-work activity, to get himself out the house and give him something to do. 'Running away' is significant. He may have felt it symbolised his overall effort in life in some way. The leaves 'elude my embrace'. (Report) Reply

  • Ross Mackay (5/3/2012 8:48:00 AM)

    I always thought the leaves eluded to his work- poetry. Till I fill the whole shed,
    And what have I then? (Report) Reply

  • Andrew Hoellering (6/23/2009 4:25:00 PM)

    Dead leaves make an unusual and original harvest.
    The third verse suggests the poet's sense of closeness to the leaves which somehow elude him -they are too insubstantial!
    But the last stanza hints at something more positive and tangible -nature's unending harvest, whatever form it takes. (Report) Reply

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