Monday, July 13, 2009

Mending Wall -- Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulder in the sun,
And make 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."

For some reason, I thought about this poem today. Frost is one of my favorite poets.

So, do good fences make good neighbors? And why would we continually go through the exercise of building walls, only to see them broken time and again?

One interpretation has to do with the necessity of having and maintaining personal boundaries. Indeed, it's a good thing to have healthy boundaries, and sometimes things break them down and they need repairing. But in relationships, healthy ones anyway, the repairing is a communal process.

But the neat thing about poetry is that there is rarely only one reasonable interpretation. Frost himself never gave interpretations of his poetry, preferring that readers come to their own conclusions.

It is interesting that the narrator questions the act of wall-building even as he is actively involved in it. His neighbor, on the other hand, does what has always been done, without thought. "He moves in darkness..." he has no need for the light (of thought, of reflection) because the task is so well-known that he can do it in the dark.

Might there be a parallel with our faith, that when we question it, we force ourselves to look deeper into why we believe what we do? I think when we don't question, we lose the opportunity to look deeper into ourselves and our faith. We lose the opportunity to deepen our relationship with our Lord.

1 comment:

Peter P said...

Question everything!

You'll be shocked and amazed at what you learn about your faith and how religious you are!