Friday, August 3, 2012

Something there is that doesn't love a wall

"Mending Wall" is my favorite poem by Robert Frost, and one of my most beloved poems in general.
The language, the flow, the meaning of it always get into my bones.
We have a little "poetry wall" at our apartment, where I've framed a few of my favorites and hung them under the wine rack. "Mending Wall" is there, alongside an e.e. cummings, Mary Oliver, and W.H. Auden, among others.

It is written in blank verse but has a bit of assonance, and is written so simply. It is matter-of-fact.
The narrator is mischievous and frustrated with his old-school neighbor who insists that the two always rebuild the stone wall that divides their property, always saying "good fences make good neighbors."The narrator sees the fence as outdated and unnecessary, yet helps mend it whenever the something "that doesn't love a wall" tumbles it down.

Some days I feel like the severe neighbor, building the wall back up, and some days I feel like the narrator, spirited and young and laughing at the traditions of others. And some days I feel like the wall itself.

The language of this poem may be confusing to some, but that's ok. Just read it and savor it and picture New England and two men hunched over, lifting stones back into their proper places.
Without further ado, "The Mending Wall".

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

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