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  • Added March 14th, 2017
  • Filed under 'All Sorts'
  • Viewed 1013 times


By George Davis in All Sorts

George analyses Robert Frosts poem and concludes that we all have a choice -to construct and mend the wall around us to make ourselves safe. Or to tear down the fences, look out to our neighbours, talk with them, and not wall them in or out.

The respected American poet Robert Frost wrote a telling poem based on his experiences in the farmlands of coastal
USA. It is named "Mending Wall" and even by its title seems to hint at something deeper than just fixing broken stone walls. In it two neighbours stand each alongside a broken wall and begin to repair it. These walls are characteristic of areas in New Hampshire and Maine states which border the Atlantic Ocean. The shores and fields provide plenty of suitable rock for boundary walls.
There are two voices in this poem: one, the narrator, doesn't much like walls anyhow, and when the wall ends in an orchard, and against a pine forest he is pleased. The other a rather quiet voice is better remembered because he repeats the statement of his father, "Good fences make good neighbours." The two of them are poles apart in attitude - the narrator sees the other as living in darkness, capable of grasping two stones at once and bringing them to the wall "like an old- stone savage armed."
The narrator seems civilised and has quirky humour. He sees nature heaving with frost against the wall and over time collapsing it; rabbit hunters squirreling out their quarry and in doing so dismantle parts of the wall; wall building when he dares the stones to topple when the
builders' backs are turned; kidding his neighbour that his apples will not cross the boundary and eat the pine cones that belong to him.
In his humour the narrator thinks about what was being walled in what was being walled out, and who he was likely to offend.
Maybe a lesson is in here, not just for us kiwis, but for our American friends for whom the poem was first written. The neighbour who likes the wall, and depends on his father's guidance seems troubled. He lives in a darkness "not of woods only and the shade of trees" but an internal darkness of apprehension about everything beyond the wall, all things beyond his control.
America has had spasms of this sort of dark isolationism. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were punctuated by times when America retreated within its own borders. It is doing the same now under President Donald Trump. The world outside the USA seems to to be responsible for the position the country is in now. President Trump has promise to "Make America Great; America First" - and this means distancing the country from others, whoever they are.
However, the countries of the world are inextricably linked. No end of single countries hoping for a singular, national resurgence will change that truth. The centre of the matter is of course not just found in the poem of Robert Frost, but also in the life of Christ, who accepted all who would listen to his teachings.
We all have a choice - to either accept the fearful imaginings of the darkest recesses of our mind and construct and mend the wall around us to make ourselves safe. Or to tear down the fences, look out to our neighbours, talk with them, and not wall them in or out and give offence.
George Davis 23 February 2017.