Bringing Down the Mending Wall essaysTraditions have always had a substantial effect on the lives of human beings, and always will

Mending Wall By Robert Frost ..

Robert Frost: Poems “Mending Wall” (1914) Summary …

Robert Frost: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Mending Wall" ..
No other poem in the Frost canon better illustrates his manner—as hedescribed it—and his overall poetic intention. "Mending Wall" isconstructed around the idea of mischief. The poet's mischief ultimately erectsthe verbal barrier that his neighbor is bullied into trying to surmount orwithstand. "Why rebuild ancient walls?" is a question offered to tripthe neighbor. But one of the surprises in "Mending Wall" is that theneighbor responds with a defense. He does not fall forward. He cannot be trippedinto darkness—and a new outlook. Instead, threatened, he reaches into the pastfor support and comes up with his father's proverb: "Good fences make goodneighbors." When we fail to recognize that the neighbor replies to the poet’sprodding with a proverb, we miss a good deal of Frost’s point.

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Yet if Frost could provide links between and among his poems to encourage thekind of cross-reading that he so much favored for poetry, he could also omitfrom his poems the kinds of links—in the form of pieces of information—thatwould show him plainly to be writing in many cases within a larger historicaland mythic context. Such is the case with "Mending Wall," in which thepoet deliberately withholds a piece of useful information.


Mending Wall - Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

It is difficult to ascertain Frost's full intent in linking "MendingWall" with "The Tuft of Flowers." If the latter is aboutunexpected fellowship, then some interesting possibilities present themselveswhen it is paired with "Mending Wall." One way of stating the theme of"The Tuft of Flowers" is that even when a man works alone he workswith others—but that is hardly the theme of "Mending Wall." On thecontrary, in "Mending Wall" the poet discovers that, even when menwork together, each of them works alone. "The Tuft of Flowers" alsosays that there can be communication without words, beyond physical presence andacross time. But in "Mending Wall" we see that communication breaksdown even as men converse: For Frost, "taking up a theme" did not atall entail dealing with it always in the same way. When we examine these linkedpoems in the light that each casts on the other, we find that their relationshipreally involves statement and counterstatement, or, put another way, theme andantitheme.

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What finally emerges from Frost's poem is the idea that the stock reply—unexaminedwisdom from the past—seals off the possibility of further thought andcommunication. When thought has frozen into folk expression, language itselfbecomes another wall, one unresponsive to that which it encircles and given overto fulfilling a new and perhaps unintended function. Meeting once a year andinsulated from anything beyond simple interaction by their well-defined dutiesand limits, these "good" neighbors turn out to be almostincommunicative.

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If the poet's neighbor does not know that this annual ritual of walking theboundaries to repair their common wall has its obscure source in the all buttotally lost mysteries of ancient man, that information could not possibly havebeen unknown to the serious student of the classics who wrote the poem and whohad read in of Thoreau's search for firewood: "An old forestfence which had seen its best days was a great haul for me. I sacrificed it toVulcan, for it was past serving the god Terminus." What impresses itself onFrost, however, is something quite different. Whatever the reason, men continueto need marked boundaries, even when they find it difficult to justify theirexistence.

Mending Wall | The Road Not Taken

Current in America as early as 1850, "Good fences make goodneighbors" can be traced to the Spanish, "Una pared entre dos vezinosguarda mas (haze durar) la amistad," which goes back at least to the MiddleAges. In this form, Vicesimus Knox translated it for his compendium of ElegantExtracts in 1797, and in 1832 Emerson recorded it in his journal—"A wallbetween both, best preserves friendship." That Frost encountered the ideain Emerson’s published journals is probable, though it seems more likely thathe found its precise expression elsewhere. For our purpose it is important thatboth Frost and Emerson were attracted to the same idea, suggesting an affinityof poetic temperament. "The sea, vocation, poverty, are seeming fences, butman is insular and cannot be touched." In senti ment this is vintage Frost,but Emerson made the remark.