An Exhortation to Bond

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 neighbour 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 neighbours.”
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 neighbours.”

Robert Frost takes another opportunity in using poetry to highlight human relationships in his poem “Mending Wall.” This by far was the most difficult poem by Frost I’ve encountered so far.  I used some information on the internet to give me more understanding about it. From what I understand, the poem deals with the theme of human separation and a desire to conquer it.

The poem’s opening line says that there is “something that does not love a wall.” The “wall” in question serves as the focus of the poem, the primary symbol the speaker discusses. When the speaker attempts to repair a wall with a gaping hole, he invites his neighbor to help him repair it. The speaker mentions that “we keep the wall between us as we go.” The wall here serves as a metaphor for separation; there is something that divides both of these characters, and it goes beyond physical limitations. The neighbor looks at the speaker and says “good fences make good neighbors.” In the neighbor’s eyes, he can serve his fellow man best by separating himself from the community at large. He does not wish to unite himself into the common bond of society; he wants to be an individual who depends on his own personal intuition for happiness.

The speaker is unsettled by his neighbor’s view. He wants to convince him that being sociable is more fulfilling than being isolated. He thinks to himself, “Spring is the mischief in me/ And I wonder if I could put a notion in his head:/ Why do they make good neighbors?” The springtime represents a light-hearted state, one full of a renewal of life. It is open and vibrant. But the word “mischief” contrasts itself denotatively as an evil scheme for some foul purpose. Yet in this context it is more playful than anything else; he wants to simply trick his neighbor into thinking of life in a different way. he wants to convince his neighbor that his life philosophy is irrational, at best.  However, the neighbor will not submit to the speaker’s exhortation: he moves “in darkness,” in the cold dictates of his own heart, repeating his resolution “good fences make good neighbors.” The speaker has failed in his mission.


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