Now, Frost’s poem is becoming a sort of anti-wall anthem. To be clear, the proverb preceded the poem, though some people seem to think that Pence was quoting Frost.
Lost in the romanticism of poetry and politics is the fact that Frost’s anti-wall poem specifically stipulated that the wall in his poem was not needed since “there are no cows.” Thus, any pro-wall politician may happily quote Frost and the proverb unimpeded—the Mexicans with criminal backgrounds entering the country illegally being the equivalent of cows.
There is something there that loves a wall: The easy car trip when your loved ones call— No need to worry cows might block the road And pepper it with putrid, pie-like load. No need to live a life in fear of crime Thanks to my front door, it’s the wall that I’m Most thankful for. It also keeps me warm And saves me from the lashings of a storm. The lines are walls as well in Renaissance art, Dividing colors, pulling space apart; The lines are firmly shaded, unrelenting, And chief among the means used for inventing.
Now you may hear folks quote the poet Frost That building walls comes at some sort of cost: A loss of our humanity’s connection, A severing of some vague innate extension. For Frost claims that he mends a needless wall, Implying his mind’s broad, his neighbor’s small. Frost mocks the phrase “Good fences make good neighbors”— A civil tradition the common man harbors. Yet who knows all? Who knows the future’s course? Is not the urge to mend a greater force? New grandkids may need fences when they play; Strong walls on property will one day pay. No, it was Frost who had a wall in heart That tore tradition’s timeless truth apart… So if a man requests a wall, then build it. It’s more than what you think you see that willed it.
By Robert Frost
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.”