Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Mending Wall is a poem written by the 1961 Poet Laureate of Vermont, Robert Frost which was published in his collection of poetry, “North of Boston” in 1914. Frost’s themes include the rural life of New England people. Here in this poem, he portrays a part of New England rural life. The poet and his neighbor both together try to mend the wall (fence) in the spring. The poet feels the wall may not be necessary whereas his neighbor thinks, ‘Good fences make good neighbors, following the words of his Father blindly.
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 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.’
The poet begins with the statement “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”. Because he thinks in order to build a wall they need to dig the ground and place large stones or blocks one after another. During this process, a lot get disturbed. This makes the gap between two, who walk past side by side. Now the poet speaks of his ancestors who built the wall, who were hunters. They did not mend the whole wall, whereas they left space here and there between the stones for the rabbits do not hide easily this is to amuse the hunting dogs. He then says how he and his neighbor is about to mend the wall and set the wall once again. He says when they part from the place the wall will remain between them. While they build it with all their manpower they face troubles due to the different shapes of the rocks. Some are like balls and some are like bread loaves that do not stay in a place. So they (poet and his neighbor to the rocks) would say “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!” The poet says how hard they work in handling them in a balance. It appears like an outdoor game (mending the wall). This makes him think there is no need for a wall in-between. The neighbor and he are like pines and apple orchard. His (the Poet's) apple orchard will not reach his (neighbor) pines and eat a cone (they are parted with their differences). Even after the poet expresses his views to his neighbor, he (neighbor) replies, “Good fences make good neighbors”.
Now the poet says that the spring season usually makes him mischievous and so he started to think, Why is it necessary to make good neighbors? Because as far as his knowledge it is the cow’s presence that makes this proverb (Good fences make good neighbors) but here there are no cows. He also speaks within himself that before he builds the wall he needs to know what is walling out and what he is walling in. Then he needs to find, whoever the poet is offending by building this. He again repeats the statement, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’. As an answer to it he would say ‘Elves’ but to be honest it’s not. Now the poet witnesses the actions of his neighbor. He says, his neighbor in a distance is bringing a stone by holding it firmly as if he is an old-savage who is armed with stones. He moves as if the whole woods along with the shades of trees move with him. With this, the poet gets sure that his neighbor will not get out of his father’s thoughts. He enjoys following his father’s words which is “Good fences make good neighbors”.
Through this Poem the Poet shows how people blindly follow the sayings of their ancestors without scrutinizing them.