15 October 2007

A Poem by Robert Frost

One of the delights of having a son who has started AS Level English Literature is the voyage of discovery which comes from finding new poetry, especially as my son, who has never learned explication de texte as we were taught it, faced having to analyse from scratch a poem by Robert Frost. He asked for help!

For my sins, I was only aware of two poems by Frost: "The Road Not Taken" and the one about snow falling in the woods in winter which ends "and miles to go before I sleep"

So to be faced with a poem which was as new to me as to him meant unleashing intellectual muscles which I feared might have atrophied with time, only to discover that not only could I get excited by a new poem, I could convey the enthusiasm and help somebody who (to be honest) started out without much interest to get enthused not just by the ideas in the poem but by the structure and the techniques Frost uses to carry the poem along.

I enjoyed it so much I have even left in the American spelling! The wall which the narrator feels as a division is an artefact which his neighbour feels unites them. At the same time they are making wall, and the wall is making them.

Mr Amazon will be pleased that more money will be winging his way shortly, but this has cleansed me from the excess of Worlock and Bugnini I have been undergoing.

Making Wall

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 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 outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
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."


Benfan said...

Great poem, I wish our MEPs would take note.

Ttony said...

What an excellent thought!