Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Mending Wall"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday I posted a bit about a couple of my "good neighbors" who came to my aid on a particularly hectic and frustrating Saturday.  One had come over and helped me finish up mowing after my riding mower had quit, and the other helped to move the peacocks to their new, roomier home.

(As of yesterday, one of the male peacocks was missing, but I had hopes he would return - and he has!   I found the noisy fugitive roosting in a treetop near all of his friends in the new coop.  He was way out of reach, so I left him alone - assuming that he would eventually come down and I could then direct him to his new quarters.  Later, while I was in town on an errand, I received a telephone message from the neighbor boy telling me that he had gotten the AWOL peacock safely into his new abode.  The kid is a natural peacock-whisperer - and a good neighbor!)

So I have been thinking about the words "good neighbors" lately - and even remembering an old British sitcom of the same name - and I thought of an old line, one that I was sure came from Robert Frost, though in which poem I had not a clue, that declared:  "Good fences make good neighbors."

The Frost line on fences is from his "Mending Wall" which was written in 1914.   "Mending Wall" is the story of two old farmers, each walking along his side of a stone fence that has been torn down by hunters.    As they walk, the farmers pick up the stones, each on his side of the fence, and slowly rebuild the fence.  One mentions that his father often said that "good fences make good neighbors," while the other, the narrator, ponders what that means.

(Interestingly, at least to me, Henry David Thoreau once asked, "Who are bad neighbors?"  He then answered by saying they were the ones who suffered the neighbor's cattle to roam at large because they would not risk incurring the neighbor's ill-will by saying something about it.  Or, bad neighbors are the result of not having fences.)

"Mending Wall" is  one of the beautiful vignettes of rural Vermont so carefully crafted and preserved by Robert Frost.  He was a good neighbor to us all.

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."

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