And climb the stairs to the beach...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Morning Folks 10 07 05

"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 just love this poem. "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!'"
Can't you just see them trying to place them one on the other?

I wonder if there are stone walls like we have here in New England everywhere else. How I remember each unique wall from my childhood. We knew just where the break in the wall was, that crossing over spot we could get to by following a path to a low, flat stone exposed when a hundred years ago the top stones tumbled off, or where there was a tree to lean on as we went over the top. These weren't the 'walking on top of' stone walls built along the road on the way to the library. These were the ancient rubble walls that we took for granted, yet loved so.
And really they gave the landscape a personality. We knew the lichen covered rocks and the ones that sparkled with mica in the sun; and the ones that you dared not step on because they were so delicately balanced; and the ones that at perfect angles made a chair with a sturdy back and a comfortable seat. And we knew where the walls ended, where the stones had been knocked down or moved away centuries ago; where only the bottom moss covered stones remained scattered, with leave filled gaps "even two can pass abreast".
I remember the wall by the cemetery where my grandparents rest. Going through the woodsy patch at the bend of the road, mindful of the poisen ivy, following in the short but well-worn path we crossed over at the spot where the wall had formed its own stile, with two steps up, over, and three steps down. And how we loved the stone wall behind our house that divided yard from woods and from which you could see the tree whose trunk had grown into a donut shape and the pine grove beyond. And that stone wall ran up the hill and behind my friend Sue's yard where it was "different" than our stone wall, yet still the same, but I never really learned it well.

I don't think one can really know what Frost was writing about without knowing a stone wall like we did as children. Really great poems, in my opinion, make the reader wonder if the poet is writing about reality or metaphor. But sometimes I think even the poet doesn't know which it is.

Have a Fab Friday.


  1. We have some fun stone walls in our yard. It's more like a place that stones gathered for a wigggly line dance.

  2. how I love Robert Frost

  3. Yes, I remember the stones shaped like a chair.

    Frost was trying to say something about not being able to connect with a neighbor, wanting to, but in the Yankee way not being able to do more than share a task. Nonetheless, the task, as you have mentioned, done or undone, left its shape in stone for a hundred years. Sudbury. Once.


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