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Robert Frost

Mending Wall

Some more easy questions!

Keith Tankard
Updated: 20 January 2014
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Every year in spring, the poet and his neighbour walk along the stone wall which separates their two farms and they repair the wall -- putting back the stones which have rolled off.

The poet asks questions about how the wall might have fallen down in the first place -- making a game of it by suggesting such things as the elves having done it.

The two men, however, have very different ideas about the purpose of the wall: the poet sees no need for it because it acts as a barrier between them, while the neighbour believes that the wall keeps the good relationship going between the owners of the separate farms.


Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. At the age of 11, he moved to New England, and it would be there that he would attain his rural poetic flair.

He attended Harvard University, where he married Elinor White. His grandfather bought them a farm where they would stay for some nine years and where he would work early in the mornings writing many of the poems which made him famous.

In 1912, Frost moved to England where he would flesh out his poetic ability and come under the influence of several English poets -- and also of the American, Ezra Pound.

In 1915, soon after the Great War began, Frost and his wife returned to America and bought a farm in New Hampshire. There the poet spent much of his time writing and teaching. From 1916 through to 1938 he lectured English at Amherst College.

Frost was already 86 when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States of America. The poet was invited to attend and to speak at the function. It was the final moment of an illustrious life. Two years later -- in January 1963 -- he died from blood clots to his lungs.

"Mending Wall" was written in 1916 and describes an incident on his farm in New Hampshire. He would use the expression, "Good fences made good neighbours", an idea which he himself clearly despised -- and yet the quote has gone on to be used ever since in a most positive light.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

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.
  • What figure of speech is used in the words, "And some are loaves"? (2)

[Need help?]

  • List TWO words in the poem as a whole which indicate the link to magic in the repairing of the walls or in their falling down. (2)

[Need help?]

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."
  • The poet believes that there is no need for these walls. What reasons does he give for this belief? (4)

[Need help?]

  • The poet describes his neighbour as being "like an old-stone savage"? What figure of speech is this? (2)

[Need help?]

  • Which of the following words BEST describes the way in which the poet views his neighbour: practical? illogical? a good neighbour? traditionalist? Explain why. (4)

[Need help?]

  • How do you know that the poet thinks of his neighbour as a rather old-fashioned man who doesn't like modern ideas? List ALL the words which indicate this. (4)

[Need help?]

There are TWO words in particular which tell you that this poem is American. What are they? (2)

[Need help?]

What do you call a poem like this one which is relatively unstructured and has no rhyming scheme? (2)

[Need help?]

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