Sunday, January 9, 2011

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 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."

I don't normally like long poems, just because they usually take forever to get their point across, and I'm a rather impatient person. However, I like this one because of the fact that, even though it is somewhat lengthy, It has a very deep and widely applicable meaning to it that carries throughout the entire poem. Frost mentions a couple of times that his neighbor lives by the phrase "Good fences make good neighbors," meaning that if you set up boundaries around yourself, or in the poem, your land, people will respect you more than if you didn't. Each spring, he and his neighbor go out toghether and build up the stone wall that has been worn down by weather and careless hunters the previous year, all the while keeping the wall between them. This shows that each holds an amount of amicable respect for the other, and wishes to keep it that way through their toil upon the rock wall (Frost seems less uptight about the wall though). Even though there are places where it seems unneeded, his neighbor insists that they keep it up. I believe that this poem is not only talking about a property line, but also protection around oneself as well. Just because you are close to someone does not mean you do not have to let them walk all over you, and oftentimes you will be in better relations with them if you set boundaries.


  1. Your poetry response makes mine look short. Stop it. But in all seriousness, nice review for a very very long poem. I think, though, that when you set boundaries, you have to be careful not to set up too many, otherwise you will never have any meaningful, deep, relationships and such. It's one of those fine line situations.

  2. I'm with Jesse, this response is way too long. I agree with both of you that you can't just build walls against everything or you will never get the full satisfaction of life.

  3. I, too, prefer poems that pack a punch: a profound idea in as few lines as possible. I appreciate your observations on one of Frost's lengthy poems.

    Interesting ideas about boundaries...we need them but there are some people we must let in or, as Jesse says, "we will never have any meaningful, deep, relationships."