18 pages 36 minutes read

Robert Frost


Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1913

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Symbols & Motifs


Leaves are a recurring image in Frost’s poem, specifically leaves that have changed due to the progressing season. “Thy leaves have ripened to the fall” (Line 2) is evocative of leaves that are colorful and dry, prone to shedding from their trees at any moment. In the poem, leaves are also described in relation to the leaves on clusters of grapes. The line “whose leaves are already burnt with frost” (Line 19) refers to leaves that have endured a hard frost and are closer to dying because of it.

Leaves have long been associated with humans. The first people, Adam and Eve, covered themselves with leaves, and much like people, leaves are numerous, unique, and undergo a life cycle including birth, aging, and death. It is fitting, then, that Frost uses the symbol of leaves to explore the subjects of time and death when considered in relation to his own mortality (and human mortality at large).


In much the same way as he uses leaves, Frost uses grapes, “whose clustered fruit must else be lost” (Line 20), to apply a temporal marker to a physical, natural object. In art and literature, fruit—grapes and otherwise—has been known to represent earthly pleasures and fertility.