Friday, September 3, 2010

Poetry Friday: Frost's Mending Wall

I have finally gotten around to reading Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire. (Yes, I know, I should be mocked... send your mockingjays my way).

The image of the walls and fences that separate the people in the Districts is vivid in my mind. Last fall we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and while I am not interested in discussing politics here, the images dovetail with  recent political rallies in the U.S. 

I guess you could say that walls, and the purpose of walls, are fresh in my  mind. 
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 love the way Frost frames his questions about walls: why have them? what purpose do they serve? But most telling, I think, are the last three lines. "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.'"  Do they?

Poetry Friday is hosted by Susan Taylor Brown.


  1. Yes, I agree. good boundaries, healthy boundaries are indeed the makings of healthy friednships :)

  2. Award-winning folk musician Joe Crookston wrote a wonderful song called "Mending Walls" which gives a different and heartwarming take on this. I couldn't find a youtube for this song, but here's Joe and his vision:

  3. I still haven't read any of Suzanne Collins' books. Um-ah. They are on my TBR list... but it's a long list.

  4. Walls and boundaries are tricky. We DO need them. We DON'T need them (or at least shouldn't, if we're not still moving "in darkness").


  5. Tabitha: I agree that healthy boundaries are a good thing. I guess I was thinking more about the walls that separate us (or keep us in).

    Cecilia: Thanks for the link!

    Lynda: You should read them. I haven't read her earlier works, but The Hunger Games is truly captivating.

    Mary Lee: They are tricky, aren't they? Something to think about. :)

  6. Boundaries are so very important. I am learning now as I journey on that I have to set quite a few of them. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

  7. Just Be Real: I think boundaries are important. I guess I question the way they are enforced. Best of luck with your journey.