We can inversely say too, that, “Nature abhors barricades” in Robert Frost’s commencement of his “Mending Wall, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that sends the frozen ground-swell under it….” (1-2) so much so as an Igbo proverb admonishes,“Eriri adighi nwa okuko mma n’onu – one does not tie a chicken on neck to the tithe”.
Nevertheless, some are in the habit of doing things of such sharp contradistinction. Thus, this contrast suggested in his “…and makes gaps even two can pass abreast” (4) puts others in a chronological squabble where otherwise the diversities of personalities should be knitted together for one common good, and that is a peaceful existence.
They are the hunters, sadists, who are not just after any animals, but after another’s peace. Wreck the ruins and gather the spoils, “where they have left not one stone on a stone” (7). The usage of a rabbit and dogs succinctly concretizes their repugnant actions. The former symbolizes the trifles, our idiosyncrasies and misdemeanor akin to human act, while the later, is the altar of jealousy and hatred, where they would sacrifice the joys of oneness at the expense of the co-existence of a family. The negligible offshoots are blown to the wind on the wings of gossips, and calumnies which in effect erects more walls of indifference, war of words, and intent on injurious vengeance against brothers.
One is taken unaware at the ‘hunters’ clandestine onslaughts for “the gaps I mean, no one has seen them made or heard them made, but at spring mending-time, we find them there”. (7-11)
Spring here is metaphorical, season-wise. It is the season after winter and before summer, in which vegetation begins to appear; however, here, it suggests the fullness of the love and the riches of communion. Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity Ps. 133. What a shock, when at this relish, one finds a seed of discord rather sown by one he could least imagine!
Lies!!! Lying so ‘truthfully’ that lies become the truth, and truth, lies.
Thus, walls of hatred, of distrust and contempt are put in place. “We keep the wall between us as we go; to each the boulders that have fallen to each” (15-16). The burden of life is not meant to be borne by one person alone, it is proverbially “bunu bunu , ibu anyi danda” in Igbo. Yet, it is more dangerous than sitting on a keg of gun powder, when deep grudges are hidden beneath smiling teeth and open hands that deceitfully suggest kindness. Unsuspectingly, one parades, while the other deploys destructive strategies and they “have to use a spell to make them balance” (18).
Inauthentic existence! Spells? What good are they for, than upholding vainly, the unfortunate walls that prohibit love of neighbor and love of self? For we turn our backs, shut ourselves in our incompleteness and suffer the spates of pride, “stay where you are until our backs are turned! We wear our fingers rough with handling them” (19-20). Indeed ‘wearing our fingers rough’ is understatement. Invariably, the tottering walls which the spells cannot hold fall on our toes and we die every day at the fingers of our brethren. So long as these walls stand, we die socially, psychologically and spiritually! Why not?, for “there where it is we do not need the wall” (23). Or do we?
Does one need to draw a boundary because the other says that his head looks like he-goat’s? Do mothers need to draw battle lines because their children fought? And should fathers erect walls between themselves and their children and children’s children, for some archaic and undisclosed ancient stitches?
If one appreciates the spices of variety, one should appreciate also the richness of the individual differences, appreciate constructive criticisms, check if he really looks like a goat, though goats should of course be ‘fed in the ban’, try to know why the other acts the way he does and most importantly appreciates the positive natural course of disagreement, ‘we disagree in other to agree’.
Obododike and Obidike do not need to go into fight of words on the supremacy of “onye kwuru oto ebutuo ya- whosoever stands, must be bulldozered now”. The beauty of the community of their residence is, “He is all pine and I am apple orchard” (24). Obododike means a town of warriors while Obidike a warrior himself, so what is common among them is like the relationship between the leopard and its spots. If Obodike annihilates Obidike, then the spots of the leopard can as well have no need of the skin upon which it spreads royally. Or otherwise Frost is right that, “my apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines ….” (25-26). Yes, let my neigbour lives, so that when a count is made on those who have neighbours we both are counted! E ji Ogene eyi m egwu, e ji mmadu eyi m egwu? Anyi nwere Ogene mkpakija, anyi nwere Loya, anyi nwere Capinta, anyi nwekwara Dokinta!-( am not scared of whomsoever you think you have, we have potent Ogene music, we have more lawyers, carpenters and doctors than you do.)
The unwarranted suspicions among us are most unfortunate. There has been a steadily but subtle dismantling of trust and a systematic enthronement of individualism among the once a united Umunna clan social system, each to his own, because “Good fences make good neighbours” (27).
Do you think good fences really make good neighbours? Wait… I would suggest you lend a little thought, though the answer could simply be a ‘Na’ or ‘Ya’ or ‘Na ya’ (yes and no) as the case maybe. When a brother becomes unbearably spiteful, what is his? Cut him off and wall him and his lots out! Ostracize him, crucifice eum (crucify him)! Thus, here and there, there are wars in the nooks and crannies of our town, because one is wont to act like that.
“Why do they [fences] make good neighbours? Isn’t where there are cows” (30-31). Cows are the biggest of the domestic animals; but here we rarely have them. We have goats, sheep, fowls et cetera more at home. Such are mostly the nature of the discontentment, our quarrels, and the kpim of the brouhaha, than they scarcely measure to a cow! So why do we dig trenches and make ranches in-between our lives, when we do not rear cows personally in our compounds? Well, it is not as if there were no causes for alarms, but most bones of contention are as ‘big’ as the rabbits not cows!
However, “before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling outt, and to whom I was like to give offence” (33-35) is a welcome mediation. A cantankerous (pugnacious) brother could be readily useful to a peaceful brother when an outsider wages a war in their province if there were no walls. While a peaceful brother could save his troublesome brother from heckles by intervening amicably in his cases. Nevertheless, the two-edged nature of walls should be properly examined before walling.
The proverbial kite that carried in Osuokpo the praying mantis into the walls of its nest, walled in troubles. Ihe Egbe buru bata, eburu ya puo! The rodent that left where it was in search of more oil bean pods towards its tree, has walled out the richness of its (Oil bean) dehiscence. When consanguine families wall out themselves, they ruin the beauty of friendship of their children, the sweetness of their existence and the splendor of the African-Igbo ‘Igwebuike’ majority potency.
Do we still want to know to whom the offence is given? Indeed, there is “something there is that doesn’t love a wall that wants it down”. It is not ‘Elves’ or any fairy being, it is indeed we. The truth is that we might want but never need the walls. The fears of the unknown, of not knowing what transpires behind the several walls, keep humans anxious and suspenseful. Is this not a sickness of a type too? (35-38).
The Walls of rejection demean the rejected, and endangers the one who rejected. Many mad ‘men’ who walk our streets are so because they were walled out of love. Most people we tag terrorists are so out of frustration, dispossession and rejection; most people we call thieves are so for lack of love, respect and recognition. Having been walled out by the government, families and friends, they indeed become the “something there is that doesn’t love a wall”. The synergy is daunting indeed and when things fall apart….
The energy we dissipate in buildings walls render us impotent and short lived. No happiness and peace of mind, “I see him there bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top. In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed” (39-41). Why not? When one draws lines of the number of hurts he has suffered from another and imprisons those who trespassed against him in his heart, he is overstated supinely like an old-stone that knows not the dynamism of time. Then like the little creatures grooving beneath it (in darkness) “He moves in darkness as it seems to me. Not of woods only and the shade of trees” (42-fine) seeking for adversity upon the other, because no one plays with the scorpion without getting stung.
In fine, with paralysis of analysis not suffered in this, it is believed Robert Frost would be glad at The Rending Wall and contextualization of the Mending Wall in African Background!
Ostar of the Lil’Smile
I respect you because you are an atheist. You remind me of God because I know he is not a Christian. I am a Christian. I believe in God and this is why I believe in you. Yet, from most of the things you do, you believe more in God than I do because you love goodness. God means “goodness of deeds”.
MENDING WALL 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 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.”