Monday, November 09, 2009

The Fall of the Berlin Wall and Robert Frost's Poem, The Mending Wall

Yesterday, I was reading newspaper articles about the Twentieth Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, November 9, 1989. While reading, I was surprised and pleased at what came floating into my mind, Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, written long before the Wall went up.

What the poem does is bring out the symbolic significance of the Wall, like a barrier in our minds, a wall of fear and darkness separating us from love and light. Here are the first two lines of the poem:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it.

The frozen ground-ground swell is like the light penetrating darkness.

Later in the poem, the speaker contrasts this recognition with his neighbor’s idea that 'Good fences make good neighbors', noting that he moves in darkness.

Here is the poem.

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 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 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 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."

While the theme of the poem is set in the first two lines, the speaker matter-of-factly details the repairing of the wall for the next 23 lines, and then he thinks:

There where it is we do not need the wall.

When he tells this to his neighbor, he can only repeat his father’s saying,
'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Although the speaker does not name what does not love a wall, calling it something, he is aware at some level that it refers to the light and love that he is; at some point along the way, he had caught a glimpse of the truth of his wholeness.

Yet, his neighbor is moving in darkness, aware only of his separateness from God, having learned from his father who was a liar from the beginning in the sense of the human conditioning being passed on, deceiving from generation to generation.

Holiness can never be really hidden in darkness, but you can deceive yourself about it. The deception makes you fearful because you realize in your heart it is a deception and you exert enormous effort to establish its reality. T-1.lV.2:1,2

In this darkness, he moves like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

This is the darkness of separation in illusion. There is, however, an end to his journey in darkness, and the fall of the Wall gives us a physical demonstration.

There is a hush in Heaven, a happy expectancy, a little pause of gladness in acknowledgement of the journey's end. For Heaven knows you well, as you know Heaven. No illusions stand between you and your brother now. Look not upon the little wall of shadows. The sun has risen over it. How can a shadow keep you from the sun? No more can you be kept by shadows from the light in which illusions end. Every miracle is but the end of an illusion. Such was the journey; such its ending. And in the goal of truth which you accepted must all illusions end.

And the Wall and the illusions came tumbling down.

And all the king’s men and all the king’s horses
couldn’t put Humpty together again.

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