Literary Devices Literary Devices    

Lesson 35: Onomatopoeia: Gathering Leaves

by Robert Frost

Performer: Librivox - Anne Cheng

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?

    Literary Devices Literary Devices    

Lesson 35: Onomatopoeia: Gathering Leaves

by Robert Frost

Performer: Librivox - Anne Cheng


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read or listen to the poem.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poet.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


'Gathering Leaves' by Robert Frost philosophizes about the cyclical nature of life. In the poem, the narrator describes the tedious process of raking up, bagging, and hauling off mountains of leaves. The narrator complains that spades are no better than tiny spoons for scooping up leaves, and gripes that when he scoops up the leaves with his arms, many overflow to escape back the ground. He forces the mountains of leaves into bags, which are as light and inconsequential as balloons, belying the hard work taken to fill them. Even more dispiriting, the leaves he's painstakingly bagging up are worthless. The narrator reminds himself that removing the leaves is an essential part of fall harvest time that will allow other plants to flourish in the following spring and summer. The tired narrator wonders whether the continual cycle of trees growing and losing their leaves every year will ever stop.


Poets often use literary devices, defined as 'rules of thumb, convention, or structure that are employed in literature and storytelling.'

The nine literary devices we'll study include:

  1. Rhyming
  2. Alliteration
  3. Similes
  4. Metaphors
  5. Personification
  6. Foreshadowing
  7. Allusion
  8. Hyperbole
  9. Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is a literary device whereby an author uses a word that sounds like what it represents, such as 'gurgle' or 'hiss.'


Activity 1: Recite Poem Information

Recite the title of the poem and the name of the poet.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem. How does the image differ from the poem?

Activity 3: Recite the Poem

Practice reciting the poem aloud.

Activity 4: Identify Onomatopoetic Examples

Read aloud the examples below and identify the onomatopoetic words.

  • The dog woofed at the passing car.
  • The wind whooshed through the open door.
  • The rain pitter-pattered against the windows.
  • The mountain lion yowled and ran away into the woods.

Activity 5: Identify the Rhyme Scheme

Review the poem and identify the pattern of its rhyming scheme. (e.g. ABBACDCD, etc.)

Activity 6: Identify Alliteration

Review the poem, and point out any instances of alliteration.

Activity 7: Identify Similes

  • Review the poem and identify any similes.
  • Name the pairs of elements that the similes compare.

Activity 8: Identify Hyperbole

Review the poem and identify the instances of hyperbole.

Activity 9: Identify Onomatopoetic Words

Review the poem excerpt and identify the onomatopoetic word.

  • I make a great noise - Of rustling all day

Activity 10: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete pages 106-108 of 'Elementary Poetry 5: Literary Devices.'


  1. 'Onomatopoeia.' Wikipedia. n.p.