Tuesday Poem – Mending Wall by Robert Frost

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 neighbours? 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.”

I was going to look for something startling and modern for this week’s post but came across these lines where I had saved them. And so exchanged modern for timeless.

And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.

And that was that …I exchanged modern for timeless. I just love

‘Mending Wall’.  The two lines above could be construed as people shutting off from one another but to me it seems respectful and loving. I can go a hundred steps further and get carried away on the topic of healthy boundaries too. We all need those…and I love the way that Robert Frost respects those of his neighbour even though he himself questions the reasons and would like to talk about it.

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.’ 

It seems to me he enjoys the whole process of the wall and is actually building a relationship with his neighbour at the same time. but enough of analysis it’s a beautiful poem. Frost was famous for his depiction of rural life. It  seems to me that his rare and clear perception and acceptance of the interaction between ourselves and our environment  borders on the metaphysical.  To learn more about Frost, 1874-1963, b. San Francisco, d. Boston, a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry, go here. And take time to watch the short but illuminating biographical video, there within.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost

If you are feeling like being startled stimulated puzzled and uncertain of the meaning of poetry visit Tuesday Poem where this week’s editor Zireaux may be able to help. And do visit the other members of Tuesday Poem in the left hand side bar and soak up the variety.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – Mending Wall by Robert Frost

  1. I’ve always loved that poem. Glad to see it again. There were so many walls in the Chinese city I was in. Like Robert Frost I wondered if they were for keeping things in or for keeping things out. I agree,- I think the poet enjoyed walls business.

    • Hello Jane. 🙂 Yes I think he did. Did you know he actually lived on a farm for over a decade where he wrote some of his best poetry including Mending Walls and that is where he mended walls. See robertfrostfarm.org

  2. Completely agree with your thoughts, Helen. I’d even say it reads like a love poem. “Spring is the mischief in me” — like a man coming out of winter’s loneliness, looking for a playmate. I suspect the neighbor is no Ned Flanders here. He knows what’s going on, but is too polite — or too shy, too fearful — to say anything. “I’d rather / he said it himself” says the narrator, referring to the “elves” and looking for a shared acknowledgment of the joke (the truth behind their togetherness; that gaps in fences allow for love). Frost was a master of allegorical realism, as opposed to the more abstract forms of allegory one finds in, say, Stephen Crane, or the overdrawn scenarios in something like “The Cold Within” by James Patrick Kinney. “Mending Wall” is so much more subtle and rich; a great poem.

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