Thursday, May 18, 2006

Back away from the Robert Frost. Slooooowly...

I won't bore you with my opinions on the border and illegal immigration and all that crap. I want to talk about something more important: improper use of poetry.

That's right. With everyone chattering about the (admittedly important) issue of border security, I am just about ready to start shooting if I hear ONE MORE PERSON drool proudly [you should really read this line aloud while holding onto your tongue with your fingers to approximate the way it sounds in my head]: "As Robert Frost said, 'Good fences make good neighbors!'"

Here is the poem they haven't read:

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulder in the sun,
And make 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 outdoor 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 offense.
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."


Pop Quiz--Short Answer

(100 points)

One of the poem's characters is presented as a close-minded dickweed, while the other appears thoughtful and imaginative. Which is which? Which character claims that "Good fences make good neighbors"? What do you make of this?

7 Comments:

At 11:33 PM, Blogger gad said...

Amen! And since we in Sioux Falls are gearing up for graduation ceremonies later this weekend, let me just say that folks do the same damned thing with "The Road Not Taken," a poem largely about nostalgia and our tendency to look back on our decisions and romanticize some sort of false nobility that makes us feel better about our lives.

I love teaching Frost. He's so much darker and more complicated than most folks realize.

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger Tense Teacher said...

I expect high school students to misunderstand and misinterpret poetry, for it's my job to help give them new ideas...but it irks me to no end when supposedly educated adults do it.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Shell said...

And what about all the people running around quoting that old fool Polonius, like "Shakespeare says 'To thine own self be true.'" No, Shakespeare would never have presented something so cliched and meaningless as a deep truth. Polonius does that. It's supposed to clue us in to the fact that he's an insipid moron.

I shouldn't be such an elitist. I'll shut up.

 
At 4:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you guys are on to something here. As Greg points out, this is graduation season and people like Bill Cosby, Jodie Foster, even John Stossel are going to be dusting off their old Norton Anthologies to come up something clever to use in their commencement speeches. After all, Yogi Berra will only get you so far. So here's what I propose, because I sure as hell won't be doing it. Somebody should comb through this year's speeches and catalog how Shakespeare and Frost and Eliot and Yeats get pared down into soundbites. I think whatever essay you come up with would be publishable (I'd love to read it). EW did something similar but it was more of a thumbs up thumbs down approach, I'm imagining something with more substance.

Because in today's society we need more critical thinking (Okay, that was really lame, but there was no whay that phrase wasn't getting in--Sorry Shell--head back to camp, the tribe has spoken, I'm sure you want to see what you're playing for...I am on FIRE)
tc

 
At 12:25 AM, Blogger gad said...

Great idea, Tom! I'd like to say that I'll be doing it, but I know better.

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger CrankyProf said...

I wish I could use the word "dickweed" in open class.

There are so many characters it applies to.

"Jack," in Tallent's "No One's a Mystery," for example.

(I did a class on the story over the past week -- you'd be amazed at how many people thought Jack was, "an OK guy.")

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger belledame222 said...

Oh thank you for that. I've been thinking about Mending Wall quite a bit lately.

and YES wrt "Road Not Taken."

 

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