On Stone Walls And Robert Frost

The Lake Champlain region of upstate New York feels, to me at least, more like New England than like the mid-Atlantic states.  It is separated from rustic northern Vermont only by the blue waters of the lake, and the signs of a New England approach to life are everywhere evident.

For example, you cannot take a walk on a country lane without seeing many stone walls, in various stages of repair and disrepair.  Some are clean and sharp-edged, some are rambling and covered with flowers, and others are vine-covered, weedy, and completely unattended, only a year or two away from full-scale collapse and a wholesale return to nature.

And who can see a stone wall without thinking of Robert Frost?  His wonderful poem of ruminations on stone walls, their inevitable decline and decay, and his annual meeting with his neighbor to replace the stones in their common wall, Mending Wall, begins as follows:

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 poem is full of Frost’s curiousity and impishness.  It is too long to reprint in full in this post, but it is available here.  The poem famously concludes:

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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