Mending Wall Poem by Robert Frost

Mending Wall

Rating: 4.0

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 neighbour 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 neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? 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 neighbours."

Andrew Hoellering 28 May 2009

The key line for understanding the poem is “There where it is we do not need a wall” as this explains Frost’s attitude to it. It is superfluous to requirements, and Frost makes fun of it and criticises the mind -set that led to it being built in the first place. A wall is unnatural (lines to 4) and line 4 is ironic as Frost likes the idea of two being able to walk side by side. Hunters have caused the damage to the wall (line 5) and Frost and his neighbour meet to make the necessary repairs. Nature is also against the wall (lines 9 and 10) You should now be able to illustrate Frost’s attitude to the wall, citing the following lines in which he makes fun of it by saying that the meeting too repair it is “just another kind of out-door game.” Other key lines for understanding the poem are “He moves in darkness as it seems to me/Not of woods only and the shade of trees.” What other kind of darkness is there? Surely the darkness of ignorance, and here we come to the heart of the poem. The neighbour is a man who refuses to think for himself, “who will not go behind his father’s saying.” Here we are talking about racial prejudice, about anti- feminism, about fundamentalist religion at its most intolerant –about any blind belief that divides one human being from one another. In other words, “An old-stone savage armed” is Frost’s personification of the attitude of all those who prefer prejudice to reason.

62 29 Reply
* Sunprincess * 28 October 2012

wow..a masterpiece..good fences make good my privacy..fabulous!

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Smoky Hoss 12 December 2023

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall." -could this be the spirit of humanity that we at our own peril we ignore? Walls of the heart should not be built, perhaps those who "hunt" do us a favor by tearing down walls…

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Michael Walker 29 July 2019

I take the side of Frost's neighbor, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. You need something to wall off a close neighbor.

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Joe Turner 06 January 2020

" Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, "

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Joe Turner 06 January 2020

" ... Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out,

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Don Smith 24 October 2018

Upon first read, Mending Wall conjures up visions of traditional New England seasons with their image known only to its natives.

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memey boi 21 04 July 2018


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Susan Williams 10 December 2015

Something there is that loves a Frost poem. I wonder if there is a man or woman who walks this earth and does not appreciate his works. If there are they must have built some impenetrable walls around themselves and thus miss the love freedom can bring to a life.

26 6 Reply
Paul Burke 12 December 2017

Two years since the last comment? ...I so love Frost's works and I pick them up each year in December to read in winter....Emerson follows as I wait for Spring... It is my little stop without a farmhouse near... My thinking is RF was not a bog fan of walls between neighbors.

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