Friday, November 6, 2009

Poem Analysis #4

Before we get started, please do look at the analysis from last week, here.

My apologies for not posting this yesterday; it totally slipped my mind. Cicely's post earlier in the week reminded me of this excellent Frost poem, so I thought I would use it here.

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 outdoor 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 offense.
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 love how Frost uses very simple language to really make his readers think. I also love the image of the speaker's neighbor with a stone in each hand as a savage about to kill with the stones. I wonder if Frost was initially inspired to write this poem because of the saying repeated twice in the poem itself; "good fences make good neighbors." I'll leave you all to discuss more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've always thought that the good fences/good neighbors thing referred to the potential for endless warfare over just where, exactly, the property line ran---where there is a good fence delineating it, there's no (well, less) squabbling over who is responsible for yard upkeep where, who can plant a rosebush where, etc. Possibly with a side-order of well-built and -maintained fencing keeping your livestock out of my garden. Maybe even a bit of "that cow was in my field, with my herd, it must be one of my cattle".

Of course, this doesn't deter arguing over who owns the fence, when it comes to fence painting, maintenance or replacement, or where the 'fence' is a line of bushes, who is in charge of keeping what clipped, or has the right to rip it out and replace it (with a fence, for example).

And I suppose, with a tall wooden or stone wall, there might be the issue of privacy, in that an opaque barrier is useful for limiting the extent to which the neighbors are able to 'spy' on your personal business; but this might apply more to in densely-populated suburbs than to the wide-open rural areas.

I can remember one occasion in my past where a good fence would have made for better neighbor-ness....because if the fence had been in good shape, someone else's calf wouldn't have been in a position to commit suicide by throwing itself in front of my husband's van. Funny thing....another calf had been hit, out of that same field, earlier that morning. No satisfaction was obtained for anybody, and that certainly made for general bad feelings.