Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down"

Robert Frost challenged the validity of erecting walls

I read Robert Frost's poem "Mending Fences" again. In light of Trump's grandstanding for $5.7 billion for a wall between the US and Mexico, this 60-year-old poem takes on fresh meaning.

In the poem, Frost challenges the old adage that "Good fences make good neighbors." He tells of he and his neighbor mending the stone fence between their properties each spring. He ponders why they bother, for neither keep animals. His neighbor, however, is insistent on the practice and repeatedly quotes the dictum.

But Frost suspects there is perhaps a divine or natural power that brings down parts of the stone wall each year.

I especially like the following lines:
"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..."

"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..."
Frost reflects on his neighbor's quoted phrase and stolid actions:
"...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..."
I ask: Why walls? What--or Who--is it that wants the superficial walls between us down?

Seems to me it's wisdom to cooperate with that Something.

John Franklin Hay

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